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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Nonna Flora's White Beans & Bruschetta

My Nonna Flora: A master of La Cucina Povera!
My Dad, Andrea Casolaro, grew up on Cucina Povera or Cooking of the Poor. He is from Naples, Italy which was the most bombed city of Italy during WWII. Many of the air raids were in the daylight and caused massive killings of  many civilians.I grew up with him telling me stories of how he and his family had to hide in the underground cellar during the many air raids that lasted several years. I finally got to see the very cellar when I was visiting my family in Naples a few years back, it was surreal. I remember this one story he told over and over about a bomb that barely missed his building. He remembers coming up from the cellar and seeing nothing but smoke and feathers falling from the sky, the bomb had hit a chicken coop! My poor Dad --Povera Papa-- couldn't eat chicken for years after that, and still to this day is not a huge fan of chicken.
~My Daddy as a small child in Ischia~

1 pound dried white (Cannelloni, Navy, or Great Northern) beans soaked overnight ~Or~ Quick Soak Method
1 teaspoon dry oregano or 1 T fresh oregano chopped
4 garlic cloves minced
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup white wine (My addition, Nonna Flora used water)
zest and juice 1 lemon and more wedges for serving
black pepper
1 tsp kosher salt plus more to taste
1/2 cup Parmesan Cheese for serving
Bruschetta , Crostini, or Toasted Italian Bread slices, or in Cucina Povera fashion: day old bread slices

Drain the beans and put in a large pot adding enough water to cover by 1-2 inches.
Heat up to a boil, lower to a simmer, cover and cook for 1 1/4 hours for Cannellini or 50-60 minutes for Navy  or Great Northern Beans. They need to be very tender but not quite mushy.
Note: do not add any salt until they are fully cooked or else they will never become soft and tender. 
Drain this liquid and set the beans aside in colander.
In a pot (I use the same dutch oven I cooked the beans in) add the oil and heat up, add the garlic, lemon zest, 1 tsp salt, and oregano and simmer over medium low until soft but not brown.
Add the wine, turn up the heat and cook for about 2 minutes to allow the alcohol to evaporate.
Add the drained beans, black pepper, and lemon juice and stir to combine and heat up the beans. Taste for salt.
Serve: with the bread slices, lemon wedges, Parmesan, black pepper, and olive oil at the table.You eat by scooping the beans on top of the bread and drizzling on the oil then you add the lemon and Parmesan!

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