A couple of years ago good friends of ours moved to London, Ontario — just a few hours’ drive outside of Toronto. They have a big, beautiful house with lots of extra bedrooms and once a year or so they invite the whole group of friends down for the weekend. I lovingly refer to these weekends as our grown-up sleepovers. Not the put your keys in the bowl kind of grown-up sleepovers, but the kind that start off posh enough with wine and a fancy potluck dinner spread, only to end up eating chips in your pajamas and laughing until your sides hurt at 2:00 in the morning. These are always my favourite weekends and I look forward to them all year.
My man and all his friends went to school in London, so this year we went for Homecoming weekend at Western. Having attend college and not university I had no idea what this “Homecoming” was all about and was quite intrigued by the concept. By the time we got to campus most of the festivities were winding down, but nevertheless we took full advantage of the brilliant weather (over 20 degrees Celsius! in September!) and went for a vigorous walk around campus. We took a tour through the aptly named student ghetto, got denied entry to a bar (just because one of us was a baby, geesh), and hit the bookstore before heading back to the patio. After dinner we played Cards Against Humanity. Needless to say the next morning there was lots of coffee.
We had made these plans to visit almost two months ago, and as soon as the potluck roll-call went out I knew I was going to make these braised beans and leeks from the Sprouted Kitchen cookbook. I had them in the spring when my friend Natasha made them for Lunch Club and I had been counting down the days until fall when I could try them for myself. It was warm enough to barbeque when we were in London but by the time the sun went down it certainly felt like fall, perfect for a hearty scoop of cheesy bean and leek goodness.
This was a perfect contribution to a potluck. You only need one pot and you can throw the cheese on when you reheat them when you arrive at your destination. Not to mention they get better with age — I polished off the last of the leftovers four days later and they were better than ever.
Braised White Beans and Leeks
Adapted ever so slightly from the Sprouted Kitchen Cookbook
Makes 8-10 side servings
Note: The original recipe calls for four cups of vegetable stock plus an additional 1/2 cup of water. I found that my beans were well cooked after about two hours in the oven but they were still pretty liquidy. Next time I’m going to drop the water and add it in if I find the pot to be drying out.
1 pound of dried white beans, picked over, rinsed and soaked overnight
3 large leeks
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 celery stalks, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves, roughly chopped
2 tsp herbes de Provence
sea salt and fresh ground pepper
4 cups vegetable broth
1 cup shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1. Drain and rinse your beans that have happily soaked overnight. Set aside. Next, preheat your oven to 225F with the rack arranged in the lower third. Now you’re ready to rock.
2. Trim your leeks so you’re left with only the white and light green parts. Slide them in half vertically and rinse well in cold water, getting all the nasty bits out from between the layers. Slide thinly into half moons.
3. Heat a large Dutch oven or heavy, oven-proof pot over medium and add olive oil. Add in celery, garlic and leeks and cook until soft, about 3 to 5 minutes.
4. Add beans and herbs, along with 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt and a generous amount of black pepper. Stir in vegetable broth and 1/2 cup of water and bring to a boil.
5. Cover the pot with an ovenproof lid or cover tightly with foil. Place the pot in the over and cook until the beans are full cooked, stirring occasionally. This could take anywhere from 2 to 3 and a half hours, so keep an eye on them! If your pot gets dry but your beans aren’t cooked add some water.
6. Once cooked, taste and adjust seasoning. Beans can be cooked until this point if serving later.
7. Turn your oven up to 500F and sprinkle cheese on top of your beans. Place the pot back in to the oven for 10-12 minutes until cheese is melted and bubbly. Let sit for 5 minutes before serving.