I’m a little excited about tomatoes in the store lately – living in Minnesota, they’re pretty iffy through the winter. The prices are dropping and although I spotted a sign in one store saying locally grown, I didn’t believe them! Inspiration really hit when I opened my new issue of Bon Appetit and saw a recipe for White Bean Ragout on Toast.
The photography from Bon Appetit was gorgeous: I think they did a bit of doctoring, but I’m sure mine tastes just as good. A few minor changes bought it right into budget, and I added a little vinegar to brighten the flavor.
Recipe: White Bean Ragout on Toasted Bread Garlic Bread, 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 1 halved
- 1 teaspoons tomato paste
- 4-6 1″-thick slices grilled or toasted bread – home-made Artisan Bread is perfect!
- 1 clove garlic, halved
- 8-10 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan, divided
- 3 cups cannellini (white kidney) beans
- 4 cups vegetable broth or chicken stock, divided
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar or lemon
- 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
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. Measure 1/2 cup soffritto and set aside; reserve skillet. Transfer remaining soffritto to a container and let cool completely, uncovered. Cover and store in refrigerator for up to 4 days or freeze for up to 3 months.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375°F. Rub bread slices with cut sides of remaining garlic clove. Place bread on a baking sheet and sprinkle 1 tablespoon Parmesan over each slice. Toast until cheese begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Set aside.
Heat reserved 1/2 cup soffritto 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, vinegar and remaining 1 cup broth; simmer until tomatoes are tender, 3-4 minutes. Stir in 2 tablespoons Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper.
Divide bread among bowls. Top with some bean mixture and broth. Garnish with remaining 2 tablespoons Parmesan and parsley. Drizzle with oil, if desired.
Money & Time Saving Strategies:
For pricing, remember to use your coupon matching sites for your local stores. My favorite is Pocket Your Dollars in my area, but every store has a group of enthusiastic couponers who can point you to the best bargains. Don’t be discouraged if your prices are higher at first – just keep shopping the best sales and follow the strategies and you’ll get there! Check under Saving on Basic Ingredients for more detailed information and storage hints – use <control f> to search each page to bring you to the item you want to check out.
Bon Appetit suggested making extra Soffritto (the mixture of Peppers, Onion and Garlic) but I cut it back in half and ended up with a cup – 1/2 cup for the recipe and 1/2 cup to freeze. I didn’t think I could successful cook less without danger of burning, and since it is a long process I wanted extra. I love this idea of cooking part of a recipe and freezing and I often do this – it helps to get a fresh dinner on the table using, basically, leftovers! This whole recipe could be doubled and frozen, but it won’t look as pretty reheated.
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.
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 knife. You’ll want to make sure your knife is sharp for this! You’ll end up with this:
Nutrition: 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 Payoff: 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)