My mother has always been a master at stretching a dollar because she’s had lots of practice most of her life. As a single mother of three children under the age of five by the time she was 25, she worked hard to put a roof over our heads and food on the table. She was very good at providing us a life we never considered was lacking, even though by today’s standards, most would say it was. Our clothes were mended and patched when they began to show wear, and those gently worn were passed down to the next child in line. Yes, we had toys, but more often, we ran around outside playing with friends at imaginary games. We ate only at meal times, and when we did, the food was simple and filling. Often, beans were on the menu, and on those days when my little sister asked what we were having for dinner, the response would be, “Hundreds of wonderful things.” And why not when you consider that a two-pound bag of pintos costs only a few dollars even at today’s prices.
As much as I still enjoy a good pot of beans, white beans, or cannellinis, are what we most enjoy now. Often referred to as white kidney beans, they’re related to navy beans, or great northern beans. I often keep a can or two in my pantry, but I always have a small bag of dried beans as well. They find their way into so many different quick dishes these days — like pasta, soup, or salad. Our favorite way to eat them is with wilted dark greens such as chard or kale, and lots of garlic. On some nights, sun-dried tomatoes are tossed into the mix, and others, whatever pasta I have in the pantry helps bring everything together.
This recipe for “Cooked Shell Beans” is from Frank Sitt’s Bottega Favorita and is a good starting point for so many fabulous recipes, including a nice Bean Puree if you add some roasted garlic. Put a pot on this weekend, and enjoy all the possibilities.