Before I started writing this column, I reached out to a few of my friends about what kinds of plant-based, weekday-friendly meals they'd like to learn how to make. Most respondents offered their suggestions, but one individual had a request: "Just please no avocado toast."
My friend went on to explain that while most things in life are at least a little more delicious when served on a hunk of toasty bread — avocado being no exception — as a vegan, she felt like avocado toast was her only option at most breakfast and lunch joints. Fatigue had set in.
"But," she texted, "if you have any alternatives . . ."
And now I do.
Earlier this week, I was on Instagram when I scrolled past a photograph on the Rancho Gordo profile. For the uninitiated, Rancho Gordo is a specialty producer and seller of heirloom beans with a cult-like following. Launched in 2001 by Steve Sando, their annual Bean Club subscription memberships have, at times, had a 35,000-person waitlist.
In the below image, Sando holds up a toothpick stacked with large creamy-white beans and thin slivers of anchovy, punctuated with pops of roasted red pepper.
"I think this is going to be the appetizer to beat this summer," Sando wrote. "Remember, you heard it here first."
He continued, "I used cooked Royal Coronas but cooked and marinated would obviously be more interesting."
Gordo is totally right. Marinated beans are obviously more interesting than their undressed counterparts. They also just so happen to be the ideal topping for toast, especially in the summer.
You can start with either dried or canned beans — both have their benefits. Canned beans shine when it comes to convenience and not having to turn on the oven in the summer. Dried beans are more cost-effective; they often have better texture and flavor; and there are tons of cool varieties to choose from (like these gorgeous vaquero beans, which kind of look like the side of a piebald horse).
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Regardless, once you have about 3 3/4 cups of tender beans, the fun really begins. Raid your refrigerator and pantry for marinade ingredients. Think about it a little bit like putting together a good salad dressing. You're going to want some acid, so citrus juice or vinegar. Alliums — like minced onion, shallots and garlic — and herbs belong in the mix. Spices, salt and good olive oil tie it all together.
Cover the beans in the marinade for at least a few hours, though overnight is preferable. Once you're ready to serve, drain most of the marinade and lightly mash the beans with a fork or the back of a spoon. You don't necessarily want to purée them like hummus (you could and it would be delicious), but smashing them just a bit really allows them to cling to the toast.
Speaking of toast, go for a thick-cut French or country loaf or perhaps some hearty sourdough aka something that won't fold under the weight of those beautiful beans. I'd recommend griddling it in a skillet with some olive oil and a sprinkle of salt, but the old toaster is a-okay, too. Spoon your lightly mashed beans onto the toast and enjoy.
- 3 1/4 cups cooked, drained beans
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 2 to 3 teaspoons dried red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon coriander
- 1 teaspoon dried, powdered fennel seed
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 scallion, finely chopped
- 1 lemon, juiced and zested
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped dill
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
- 4 pieces toasted bread
Cover the bowl and allow the contents to refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
Before serving, drain any excess liquid from the beans, then lightly mash them with a fork or the back of a spoon. Serve on toasted bread.
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