slow-braised beans with kale

I read Martha Rose Shulman's Recipes for Health column every week in the New York Times. I'm not sure how she does it, but sometimes I feel as if she knows what I'm craving. In this case, a big pot of beans. Her recipe comes from a recent series on casseroles for frigid nights, and was the perfect accompaniment to red wine and a movie last month.

This is really a meal for Sunday, or Saturday, if you're not busy. The beans cook for three hours at a low temperature, plenty of time for them to get creamy and the water they're cooked in to thicken. With crusty bread, you have dinner. And since dinner practically makes itself, you absolutely have no excuse not to give this a try.

This is also one of those photography lessons in how to make beige food look appetizing. You may have noticed that I don't use lots of props and lighting tricks here. It's not that I don't want to, but I'm also hungry and usually that wins out, but I wanted to say with certainty that even if these pictures don't have you rushing to the pantry, please trust me that this dish won't let you down.


Recipe slightly adapted from Martha Rose Shulman, New York Times

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 carrot, chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound white beans, soaked for at least four hours and drained
1/4 cup homemade tomato sauce
1 bunch kale, stemmed and thinly sliced
5 cups water
A bouquet garni consisting of 4 parsley springs, 2 thyme sprigs and a bay lead
1 cup bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. In a large Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium low heat. Add the onion, carrots and celery. Cook, stirring often, until the onion is tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the tomato sauce, drained beans, water, kale, bouquet garni and bring to a boil. Season with salt and pepper.

Bake 3 hours until the beans are tender and creamy. Taste and adjust salt.

To the breadcrumbs, mix in the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Sprinkle the bread cumbs over the beans and bake, uncovered, for another 30 minutes until the bread crumbs are lightly browned.