Leonardo reminds me every once in a while that, without beans, there would have been no Renaissance. Varieties of pulses had been grown in Europe since ancient times but new varieties of beans, along with the potatoes and tomatoes that had arrived from the Americas, provided a welcome boost to the middle ages diet; the protein injection artists and artisans needed for the cultural rebirth. Beans: cannellini, borlotti, fave, zolfini, are a solid pillar of the Italian table from north to south. I was never a grand bean eater before I came to Italy, and I still remember the first bowl of Pasta e Fagioli Leonardo made for me; half soup half pasta, aromatic hints of rosemary over sofritto base made with a little pancetta, the all enveloping satisfying-ness of real comfort food.
In Summer beans lend themselves to every kind of salad, with tomatoes and fresh herbs, cucumber, grains of different sorts, doused in olive oil and lemon juice. Oft a lazy cook who upends a can of beans onto a pile of cous cous with a few chopped tomatoes for the kids dinner, this summer I’ll be buying my beans dried from Luigina, soaking, cooking and storing for daily use in my efforts to reduce our footprint and well, count beans.
Summer Borlotti salad
1 cup cooked borlotti beans
2 large ripe tomaotes – chopped
Half a red onion – very finely sliced
1 clove garlic – finely chopped (optional)
Handful of parsley & basil – chopped
Juice of half a lemon
Red wine vinegar
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and pepper
Drain soaking water from beans and place in a pot covered with fresh water. Bring to the boil and then reduce heat and simmer for 30-40 minutes depending on the size of the beans. Salt the water half way through to add flavour to the beans. When they are nicely cooked drain and cool.
Chop tomatoes, red onion, garlic and parley and toss together with the beans. Season with salt and pepper before adding olive oil and lemon juice/vinegar.