College friends, neighbor friends, old Memphis friends, new Internet friends, people who fall into multiple categories. The call could come at any time and we very much take requests.
It puts me at ease in my week ahead. There are great bouts of belly laughter. Bellies filled with a meal put together largely by team at the kitchen table over wine. This week there was even a potluck element. Nathan brought a glorious pot of squash with walnuts and even though I accidentally yelled at him for being early (mistook him for Dave who, despite my protesting, is the world's most reliable sous chef whether you're ready for company or not). Even though I have all but been forced into it, I think I get to claim this newfound delegation as personal growth. Or something like that.
This week in particular we were celebrating a leg of lamb defrosted early on accident. Seven pounds of bone-in Mint Creek glory and the collected produce to plate it with. That was the easy part. Olive oil, garlic, rosemary, lemon zest and seasoning. Same for the potatoes that roasted with it. Two hours later we had this. Please excuse the furry shot, we were all very excited to dig in so any possible artistry went by the wayside.
The real star of the show was no more complicated than the lamb. You can actually see every single ingredient in the white beans in the picture up top. If you squint. Okay, maybe not the salt but you see where I'm going with this. White beans with garlic just felt right for lamb. And later that night, they felt right almost-cold from the fridge. And for the next two days they felt progressively better for lunch. Like a good stew, they only seemed to improve with time and I couldn't help but remember just how easy they were. Add broth and some kale and they could be soup. Add to toasted baguettes and they could be crudites. Add a spoon and they could just simply bring satisfaction. Nevermind the evil. It's optional. But I recommend it.
White Beans with Tomatoes, Sage, Garlic and Half a Teaspoon of Pure Evil
Adapted from Dana Treat's recipe
3 15.5 oz cans of cannelini or white northern beans
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 28 oz. can Italian whole tomatoes, with added puree
3 tbsp. chopped fresh sage (or shredded with your fingers)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Optional: Evil= 1/2 tsp truffle oil (subtle but pure velvet)
Drain the cans of beans and rinse them well with cold water in a strainer. Set aside.
In a large skillet, heat enough olive oil to lightly cover the bottom of the pan. Add the garlic and saute until it begins to brown. Add the beans and the tomatoes, breaking up the tomatoes with your hands as you add them. Be sure to add all the puree in the can. Sprinkle with a healthy pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper, and the sage and cook, uncovered, until thick, about 20 minutes.
Add your evil as a finishing touch, stir and take a taste. Basically four cans, fresh garlic, sage from the garden and 20 minutes to the perfect flavorset for fall.
If you're going to get brand-y, I'll give that to you. I used Bush's Great Northern Beans. Bush's is my client but I think you probably know better than to think I'd serve something to seven friends that's anything less than superb. It would be at odds with my apron ego. The other recommendation is San Marzano tomatoes. They are slightly more expensive than the ones I've bought previously but the flavor was absolutely worth the price difference in such a simple recipe. And I like the packaging so there's that.