I’m always excited when I see a major food magazine put out a simple recipe using wholesome ingredients. I loved it when Bon Apppetit recently recognized that some flavors just stand on their own, and even a depression era dish like “beans on toast” can be updated to today’s standards and still retain their integrity.
Bon Appetit did something else that was quite smart, and that I often do when I’m cooking – something unprecedented in a food magazine: They took a part of the recipe, a sofrito, and rather than cooking up just enough for the recipe, instructed one to make a larger amount, use part of it in the recipe and freeze the rest. Because the sofrito portion of the recipe takes about 30 minutes, it makes a lot of sense to make more and freeze part, and have the rest on hand for another batch or another recipe.
Perfect for me, because I make larger amounts of sofrito in batches and portion out for future use, anyway. I estimated, in the recipe, below, on how to make just enough for this recipe. See my Sofrito posting if you’d like to make larger amounts, and use about a cup for this recipe.
What is Sofrito, anyway? I describe it as a concentration of summer flavors: Bell Pepper, Tomato, Garlic and Onion, all sautéed to a jammy goodness. Bon Appetit described it as Italian, but many cultures and places have their own variation on Sofrito. There are a zillion uses for Sofrito, but one of my favorites is to use it as a “Spanish Sauce” with scrambled eggs.
All that being said, the recipe needed a bit of tweaking – and also a bit of Fabulous Frugalizing, and yes, beans can be fabulous! These ones certainly are! By the way, if you’ve ever heard me say “save the good stuff for drizzling” in referring to Olive Oil? This is a perfect example – if you wish to drizzle a bit over the finished dish, pull it out.
White Bean Ragout over Garlic Toast, serves 4 to 6, cost $4.23
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil plus more
- Kosher salt
- freshly ground pepper
- 2 garlic cloves, finely grated, plus 1 crushed for the garlic toast
- 1 teaspoon tomato paste
- 4 to 6 1″ thick slices grilled or toasted bread – home-made Artisan Bread is perfect!
- 1 clove garlic, halved
- 8 to 10 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan, divided
- 3 cups cannellini (white kidney) beans, or other white bean, cooked (2 cans, rinsed and drained)
- 3 cups vegetable broth or chicken stock
- 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar or lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley or green onion, thinly sliced
- Additional olive oil for garnish, if desired
Pulse onions in a food processor until finely chopped but not puréed (you should have about a cup). Transfer to a medium bowl. Pulse bell pepper in processor until finely chopped but not puréed (you should have about 1/2 cup); add to bowl and mix well.
Heat oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add onion mixture (it may splatter) and season with salt and pepper. Simmer, stirring often, until vegetables are completely softened, about 30 minutes. Add finely grated garlic and tomato paste and cook, stirring often, until tomato paste begins to turn deep red, about 3 minutes. Remove from skillet, and reserve skillet.
Note: may use instead, one cup of Sofrito.
Meanwhile, make garlic toasts. Rub 1″ slices of bread with a crushed garlic clove. Sprinkle aout a tablespoon of Parmesan over the top. Preheat broiler and broil several inches away from flame for several minutes until cheese begins to brown. This is best done on a rack so the bottoms of the bread stays completely dry.
Heat reserved the sofrito and beans in same skillet over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring often, until heated through, about 1 minute. Stir in 3 cups broth; bring to a boil. Simmer, scraping up browned bits, until liquid is slightly thickened, 3-4 minutes. Add tomatoes, and vinegar and simmer until tomatoes are tender, 3-4 minutes. Stir in 2 tablespoons Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper.
If you’d like a thicker sauce, mash a few of the beans and gently stir.
Divide bread among shallow bowls. Top with some bean mixture and broth. Garnish with remaining 2 tablespoons Parmesan and parsley. Drizzle with oil, if desired.
Let’s talk about how to save money/time on this recipe:
- Use a coupon matching site! One of my favorites in my area is Pocket Your Dollars, but every store has a group of enthusiastic Coupon Matchers. Do not discount the savings! I check their site every week, even if I don’t “need” to go to the store and often find bargains I can’t pass up.
- Follow my Strategies – You’ll see them all explained on the upper left tab of every page and how I apply them, below.
- Don’t get discouraged if your prices don’t match mine! Keep shopping at the best prices and your fridge/freezer and pantry will be stocked with sales priced ingredients.
- Read below for additional tips as well as throughout the recipe, for saving time and managing food.
- Onion: Buy onions whenever you see them drop in price and store in a cool, dark place away from any potatoes. I look for them at Aldi’s, and pick up a lot of my basic vegetables there for about half the price of a regular grocery store. Cost for the onion: 66 cents a pound, an onion is about 20 cents – I cooked it all, but only used 1/2 of the Soffritto – cost 10 cents.
- Bell Pepper: These can vary in pricing depending on the color, and of course, are always cheapest in the summer. There are two types of sales, per pound or per pepper. I usually look for the per pepper pricing; in my area it’s generally cheaper – I’ll then buy the biggest, most gorgeous ones I can find. The peppers are often bagged and sold by a unit price, too. A really good price in our area is about a dollar a pepper for the red, yellow or orange ones, and 50 to 75 cents for the green bell. Great prices come around every now and then and don’t seem to match the seasons! I usually try to stretch them when I can. They really do add an important flavor ingredient to a lot of dishes. Aldi’s, again, is another great place to find peppers. Make sure to use your other half pepper for another day! I keep mine in the door of my fridge where I see every time I look in there. Cost 50 cents.
- Garlic: Runs around 59 to 99 cents a head in my area in the boxes. It can be a little tricky to discern the best prices because it can also be bought by the pound, and generally you’ll pay less this way. I figure about 8 cents.
- Olive Oil: My strategy for buying olive oil is to look for sales and combine with coupons. I look for about 8 cents an ounce (a tablespoon) so cost for this recipe is about 25 cents. Save the good stuff for drizzling and finishing.
- Stock: I used chicken stock here, something I always have in the freezer: This is the basic recipe I follow, but I use the scraps and bones I save up – I count is as free.
- Beans: If you read my blog, you know I love to use beans as a protein, and I stock up on dried beans and peas after the Holidays for the lowest (often unadvertised) prices. I’ve simply found if they are incorporated in the diet regularly, I never have any issues with after effects – your body trains itself, I guess! Cannellini beans aren’t really available in my area, so I substitute Navy. I also cook my own and put in a Ziploc in the freezer. Each pound will make almost three 1 1/2 cup portions, about the equivalent of a can. At 89 cents a pound, the beans are about 60 cents.
- Tomato Paste: I buy the cans on sale with coupons (rare) or store specials: buy so many of a brand, get $ back for you next purchase. Last time I bought, I got it for no cost, but a good price is about 50 cents a can. Be sure to put the extra in a Ziploc in your fridge – just pull it out and place in the microwave or hot water to soften enough to pull out or break off what you need. I’ll count the cost for this recipe at about 3 cents.
- Vinegar: Every so often they’ll have coupons for vinegar, making name brand lower than store price. Best time to buy is generally around Easter for the basic White or Apple Cider. Summer is usually when you’ll find the good cooking vinegar on sale. I’ll find sale prices, too, around Thanksgiving and Christmas. Stock up on the best prices because they keep forever. Often sales are not advertised, and you can find coupons, now and then, for both the basic and the fancier vinegar. A huge jug is about a dollar – and a teaspoon is negligible.
- Tomatoes: See my tip for cutting tomatoes in half – it works for grapes, olives and any number of things, below. The grape tomatoes were on sale, so I used them instead of cherry tomatoes – I paid $1.49 a pound, and used about half – cost 75 cents.
- Toast: Ciabatta was originally called for, but I used leftover – if I’d had the super easy no knead Artisan Bread made up, it would have been perfect here! Cost: about 50 cents – if you make it home-made, it’s about 25 cents a loaf.
- Parmesan: Now here is where you could go very frugal with the canned, which I can generally pick up on a Kraft special with a coupon for about $1.00. 1/2 cup is about 5 cents. If you buy ‘cheap’ parm from the store (coupons are far and few between) in our area you’ll pay about $7.99 a pound. I’d use about 3 ounces for this recipe so the cost is around $1.50 – everything else is so inexpensive, it’s worth the splurge.
- Parsley: I bring some in from the garden every winter – but killed mine off, so I used a bit of green onion – chives would work, too. Maybe not as Italian, but the freshness really brightens the dish. Keep your green onion ends in jar of water in a sunny window and the regrow for weeks and weeks. Cost 0.
Tip of the Day:
To easily cut tomatoes in half: Place a lid on your counter, inside up. (lids from large yogurts, sour cream, etc., work great – anything that has a little lip.) Lay down your tomatoes (or grapes or olives, or whatever little things that roll around when you try to cut them inside the rim. Place another lid on top, inside down. Squeeze with the palm of your hand as you slice between the two lids with a long, sharp knife. You’ll want to make sure your knife is sharp for this! You’ll end up with this:
Cal 565; Cal fr Fat 342 61%; tot fat 37g; sat fat 5.86g; chol 3.75mg; carb 41.59g; prot 15.41g; fib 9.21g; sug 0
Put your Own Spin on It:
This dish is marvelous as is – my son added hot sauce, but he does that to almost everything now – guess it’s his new ketchup.
My Pay Off:
White Bean Ragout over Toasted Parmesan Bread was easy, fresh and substantial – and I have a little extra Soffritto for later!
- Ragout for You (thetraceyshow.com)