SLOW COOKER ITALIAN WHITE BEANS
1 16 oz. pkg dry beans white bean (Great Northern)
4-6 garlic cloves, peeled and minced or pressed
6 cups water or low sodium vegetable broth
1 large onion, chopped
2 large bay leaves
1 1/2 tsp. dried basil or 1 tablespoon fresh, minced
1/4 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. fresh Rosemary, minced
1/3 tsp. cracked black pepper or coarsely ground
1 cup sun dried tomatoes in oil, finely chopped
1 cup cured black olives in oil, pitted
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Cooks Note: Broth may be added to water to make six cups if the full amount is not available. Low sodium broth will help avoid toughening of the beans caused by salt.
One half cup black olive tapenade or one cup ripe black canned olives may be substituted for the cured olives, but we recommend using cured olives for the fullest flavor.
Wash beans and pick over, discarding any mismatched or broken beans or debris.
In order to improve the digestibility of the beans, it is best to soak them overnight (add the beans to lukewarm water for a good start). If this is not possible, bring the beans to a boil for 3 minutes, then allow to sit for 1 hour.
Combine ingredients except for olive and tomatoes in a slow cooker.
Set slow cooker to high setting. This varies with each slow cooker; the mixture should be at a slow simmer (steaming hot with a few bubbles here and there) but not boiling rapidly. Reduce heat if necessary.
Simmer for 5 or 6 hours, or until beans are tender; this varies according to the age and growing conditions of the beans, and how long they were in storage. Young beans which haven't been stored for more than 1 year will become tender more quickly than beans which have been stored for longer periods. Do not add salt until the beans are tender.
When the beans are beginning to soften but are not yet quite done, add the tomatoes, olives, and salt (about 1 teaspoon) and pepper to taste. Stir in 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding a pinch of cayenne or red hot pepper flakes, a pinch of fresh oregano or basil to freshen them up, a dash of onion or garlic powder, etc.
Variation: This rib-warming slow cooked side dish is transformed to a flavorful, full fledged meal when a ham or pork bone, ham hocks, sopressato or pepperoni stick or a few thick chunks of pancetta or prosciutto (fatty ends) are tossed into the pot. If a Parmesan cheese rind is available, this can be added for a different flavor component.