white beans with garlic and herbs and herbs
One of the easiest and most versatile side dishes you can make is white beans with garlic and herbs. The basic dish is just for ingredients that you probably already have on hand. White beans garlic olive oil and herbs – that’s it. It’s ready in just a snap taking about 10 minutes. You can serve it warmed, chilled, or anywhere in between. And you can easily adapt it and dress it to better complement the main dish you’re pairing it with.
Start With Four Ingredients
Let’s look at the ingredients a bit more closely, starting with the white beans. Any white bean will do such as Great Northern or Navy Beans. My personal favorite is the cannellini bean which what’s in the pictures here. You really can’t be wrong. In fact In some situations swapping out for black beans or red beans may work well too.
Canned beans are the quickest and most convenient option. Open, drain and add. That’s it. But if you’d prefer dried beans – a little extra forethought and prep is called for. You’ll need to soak the beans for several hours (overnight is always a good call) and then cook them through before using them. There is something to be said for the bight and deeper flavor or using dried beans. But canned just can’t be beat for ease.
The olive oil and garlic kind of speak for themselves. Two of the most essential ingredients in most Mediterranean dishes. Bust with such few ingredients here, there importance is heightened. The importance of this pair calls for the using good quality for both. Lightly sautéing the garlic in a nice extra virgin olive oil will enhanced the flavor of both.
The herbs is where you can really start playing with varying and adapting the flavor of this dish. Keep it simple with something like parsley or oregano. Rosemary is also a good option as is basil. Or you could mix it by adding a herb blend like Herbes de Provence or a spice blend like Ras al Hanout. The point is that it is very easy to customize and hard to go wrong.
The Basic Technique
To begin with, start by sautéing the garlic in some extra virgin olive oil. Keep the heat low and don’t let the garlic burn. While the garlic is cooking, go ahead and drain your can of beans. I don’t rinse them, but you can if you like. As soon as you start smelling the aroma of the sautéing garlic, its time to add the beans. Just toss them in the pan with the oil and garlic and stir it all up to combine.
At this point, you can turn the heat to a medium high and heat the beans through. It should take less than ten minutes. Remember, canned beans have already been cooked, so you are just warming up at this point. Stir a couple of times in that period to keep them from sticking to the bottom and burning. But you don’t need to hovering over them.
After about eight to ten minutes, you want to add the herbs (or spices) to give their flavors time to develop a bit. In my simple version, I’m adding some fresh chopped parsley near the very end of the cooking time for the beans. The parsley is fresh and light and doesn’t need a lot f time to bring out its flavors. If I were using a more robust herb like rosemary, I would add it a few minutes sooner. That allows the rosemary a few minutes to cook in the oil as well, which will really accentuate its flavor.
Stir it all together on last time and the whole thing is done. This basic technique works well just as it is. It also gives you a solid foundation to use when building and adding layers of flavor.
Dressing It Up
When using a white bean with garlic and herbs as a side dish, sometimes I use some of the spices and herbs I have in my main dish. This can help tie them together. Conversely, you could use a complementary set of herbs and spices from the main dish. For example, if fish with a lemon butter sauce, dill might be a nice addition to the white beans. Dill, lemon and butter all play nice together.
Your imagination can be limitless as you dress up White beans with Garlic and herbs as a side dish. Make a “piccata” version with lemon and capers. Try adding artichokes, olives or roasted red peppers. Or all three! Saute the garlic with some spinach, kale or other hearty green. Add roasted mushrooms. Try peas and chopped asparagus. Maybe even add some shredded parmesan.
If you want to do something a little different, you can take your white means with garlic and herbs and turn them into a mash. Add the prepared dish to the bowl of a food processor and give it a spin. You can run the processor until the beans are either very smooth or quite coarse. This can then be the bed for other vegetables (or the main) to sit on. Another alternative is to use it as a dip or spread for use on toasted bread.
The options are limitless, and all built on top of this most basic of bases. But it doesn’t stop there.
Make it a Meal
If your looking to amp things up a little further, you can turn the the white beans with garlic and herbs from a side into a main with little effort. Add some protein and some cut vegetables for a one dish meal.
Several examples of this include making a Tuscan Shrimp with White Beans or adding some chunks of cooked chicken breast, red onion and basil for a chicken and white bean salad.
For a heartier meal, scoop some beef stew over a bed of the white beans with garlic and herbs. Use the same herbs for the beans as you do in the stew to make it all flow together.
Add to some chicken or vegetable stock, and you have a great start to a soup. A few more vegetables, and you are pretty much done. Now its just about deciding what meat, if any, to have with the soup
A versatile base
You’re probably getting the point by now that this basic dish can be the base of a limitless array of dishes. Start with just four widely available, inexpensive pantry ingredients. Add a very basic technique, and you end up with a simple healthy and delicious dish. After that, the sky is the limit!. I hope you give it a try and play with your food a bit. You won’t be sorry that you did!
White Beans with Garlic and Herbs
- 2 – 3 TBS extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic chopped
- 1 15 oz can White Beans such as Cannelini or Great Northern
- 2 TBS Fresh Parsley (or other herb) chopped
- Heat skillet over medium high heat
- Add olive oil
- Add Garlic and sauté until just fragrant
- Add white beans and stir to combine
- Heat for about seven to eight minutes stirring occasionally
- Add parsley and stir to combine
- Heat for an additional two to three minute
I love the simplicity and versatility of dishes like this!
Thank you for your comment Frank. It is great, isn’t it! You can do so much with such a basic start Enjoy!