Since some of the students I teach are children, I found myself picking up a new book at Schlow Library called Kid Chef, by Melina Hammer. It’s a great cookbook with lots of recipes that can be made by children of various ages.
I was surprised that she had a recipe in the book for a bean stew. Why? A) kid + beans = ?? B) many people shy away from using dried beans thinking they are too hard to use/take too much time, etc. But what a great way for children to learn that beans that come in a can are first beans that have been dried after harvest.
This recipe for Winter White Bean Stew is easy to make, but it does have several steps. The results are delicious, nutritious and a great way to spend a winter Saturday afternoon with your children. Get them to help you measure out the cups of beans, they will be surprised to see how soaking them changes their size. Kids can also help to cup up veggies! I let small children use a plastic, serrated knife in my classes and no one has had an injury yet! Just cut up the carrots yourself with an adult knife.
It takes time to show children the skills of cooking, but it time well spent and a fun activity that most children enjoy.
Winter White Bean Stew
(Adapted from Kid Chef by Melina Hammer)
3 cups dry white beans, such as cannellini or northern beans
2 Parmigiano-Reggiano rinds or 2 small Parmesan wedges
1 head garlic
2 Tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
2 small onions, chopped
5 – 7 small carrots, chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
1 Tablespoon finely chopped rosemary quills, or a teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 cup chicken stock or water
Rinse the beans and pick out any bad ones/stones.
In a large bowl for them to double in volume, soak the dried beans in enough cold water to cover by at least 2 inches. After soaking for 6 hours or overnight, drain and rinse, then transfer to a Dutch oven or another large, heavy-bottomed stewpot.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Place the stewpot over a high heat and add enough water to cover the beans by at least 2 inches. Add the cheese rinds and bring the water to a boil. Once the water is bubbling, lower the heat and cook the beans on a low simmer for 1 hour, or until the beans are tender.
While the beans are cooking, cut a bit off the top of a head of garlic. Place it on a sheet of foil and drizzle olive oil over the top. Wrap it up tightly so the oil does not come out and the garlic can steam. Place in a baking dish. Place the jalapeno in a small baking dish. Roast both in the oven for about 30 minutes. Set aside to cool. Remove the cloves of garlic from their skins by pressing on each clove to squeeze out the garlic pulp.
When the beans are finished cooking (they will be soft), they will look a little soupy. Take out the cheese rinds and transfer the beans into a bowl. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
Return the pot to the stove on medium heat. Add the olive oil and onions and saute them, stirring occasionally. As they start to become translucent, add the carrots, celery, rosemary and red pepper flakes. Saute for 7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
In a food processor or blender, pulse together 2 cups of the cooked bean mixture, chicken stock, the roasted garlic and jalapeno (without it’s stem).
Empty the puree into the veggie pot, along with the bowl of cooked beans and their liquid. Stir everything together.
Serve this stew with crusty bread and a side salad.