It's dawned on me that this is my first time blogging while being in an exam session. My first few posts were written right after my exams. Oh, the life of a student! Things are very hectic these days as I'm trying to cram as much studying as possible in a 24-hour time period while trying not to forget to eat or sleep.
However, I'm not one of those people who skips meals. I could be in the middle of a war, or a particularly intense study session, but once the clock strikes 12, no matter how tired/stress/exhausted I am I become instantly hungry. The kind of hunger you can't ignore. The kind that sends you into the kitchen, rummaging through the cupboards to see what you could have to eat. A can of lima beans. Hmmm.... a half-empty (or half-full?) bag of spinach.... a block of parmesan cheese... and you start seeing it come together, with the help of a good friend, of course!
I've talked about Heidi from 101 Cookbooks many times before. Her blog is the first I ever read and I fell in love with it immediately. Now, many years later, I have her cookbook and there was a recipe in there I had been dying to make. Lucky me, I had all the ingredients on hand, sort of... This recipe is kind of a pan-fried bean dish. It's hard to describe except that there's white beans, olive oil, salt, an onion, plenty of garlic, spinach (she calls for swiss chard) and cheese all thrown into one. Really, how can you go wrong? The only problem is that Heidi is adamant about the use of dried beans for this recipe. Well, considering dried beans need to soak overnight, and that I was hungry right then and there, that just wasn't going to do. She warned extensively that the dish wasn't as good with canned beans, but it was just going to have to do.
Well, it absolutely did not disappoint! It all came together really quickly (using canned beans) and the flavours were amazing! The beans get this delicious crusty outside and a warm, creamy inside. And it really is the perfect study meal. You get a nice fibre and protein packed dish, which will give you the power to keep studying longer without feeling hungry, but without the sleepiness of a meat-heavy dish. I served it on a bed of quickly pan-fried carrots for an extra veggie. The colour combination was really quite pretty. And it gave me leftovers for the next day too, which I quickly polished off.
I will be making this over and over again, with different beans and maybe with the swiss chard Heidi calls for instead of spinach. She also recommends using it as a twist on bruschetta over rustic bread. Yum! I can't wait to try that. And what I'm also very exciting about is that if it's this good with canned beans, which Heidi strongly advice against, I can't wait to see how it turns out when I get a chance to plan ahead and use dried beans!
To all the students out there, make yourself a batch of these beans. They'll keep you going on those all-nighters. I can definitely see myself going down to the fridge in the wee-hours of the morning to warm some up. Just hang in there and good luck on your finals!
Adapted from Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson
Serves 6-8 as a side dish
1/2 pound medium or large dried white beans, cooked (as noted above, I used canned lima beans and thought the result was great, but if you want to do this recipe the way it was intended heidi recommends dried giant corona beans, cellini beans or white cannellini beans).
3 tablespoons olive oil + extra for drizzling
1 onion, coarsely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 or 3 big handfuls of spinach (see, Jamie? I'm learning!)
If using canned beans, drain and rinse them well. Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. Add the beans to the hot skillet in a single layer. (They have to be in a single layer. If your skillet is not big enough, do two batches.) Stir, coating the beans with the olive oil.. Let the beans sit on one side long enough to brown (about 3-4 minutes) then turn to brown the other side (another 3-4 minutes). Salt to taste, add the onion and garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes, or until the onion is softened. Stir in the spinach and stir until it just starts wilting. Remove the skillet from the heat and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with a touch of olive oil and sprinkle with a dusting of parmesan cheese.