white beans with onion confit

beautiful mess ::::

I am still attending the fantastic AAPM&R Academy meeting in Atlanta this week, soon coming to an end. I’ve caught up with old friends, made new friends, and soaked in as much of the educational programming as possible. And despite that we are all away from the office, my colleagues and I still can’t but help to bring up some of our practice woes with each other, as well as the funny things that some patients do and think. But it is not always “them”; it is also “us.” Sometimes we, the physicians, are the bad examples or the ones who say they have no time to do anything but work.

It is unfortunate that physicians are held to a super-human standards, while spouting healthy advice to patients. “Well, yes! You should get more sleep. It will help your pain. Let’s manage both.”  Or, “Exercising 3 times a week, 45 minutes at a time is great. Everyone should try.” Try  is the operative word. Do  is something entirely different.

This recipe, then, is my doing  for me. It is a decompression, one of many. A deflation of my high-strung mind for a minute of quiet. Sometimes just a short break in the chaos is enough to refresh, even if for a moment. And then I will go for a run. And maybe take a nap, snuggled with my babies, once my mind has dialed down for a time. The result? Total comfort food, chilly weather food, food to snuggle up to. It’s healthy with beany protein, pungent onions and garlic, and a touch of rosemary and basil.

The beans were so creamy, almost buttery, in taste. The caramelized onions, toasty garlic, and fragrant rosemary were a perfect match for the creaminess. This is similar to my recent post on black beans with goat cheese and cilantro oil, but the beans even more creamy. Be cautious on the boiling: make sure you boil, then immediately bring to a simmer. A vigorous simmer is what I did here, and it ended up cooking the beans too much, causing some to get a little mushy after one hour of cooking. While that consistency isn’t bad, and actually would work beautifully atop some charred crostini drizzled with olive oil, it wasn’t what I was aiming for here. Whatever the result, it’s good; a beautiful mess, just like life.


white beans with onion confit
Recipe type: vegetable
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
  • 1 pound dried great northern beans
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 large onions, thinly sliced in half-moons
  • 5 garlic gloves, smashed and peeled
  • 1 scant tablespoon rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, chiffonaded
  • salt and pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 3-4 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  1. Soak beans overnight. Drain water and rinse.
  2. Add garlic to bean pot, add new water to cover beans by 1 inch. Bring to boil, then simmer, occasionally stirring, for about 1 hour to 1½ hours. (Taste the beans to check doneness at around 50 minutes.)
  3. While beans cook, heat olive oil to shimmering. Add onions, rosemary, red pepper, and sprinkles of salt and pepper. Cover and cook over moderate high heat for about 5 minutes. Uncover and cook at moderately low heat for light caramelization, about 15 minutes longer. Set aside.
  4. Drain the beans, but reserve about 1 cup of bean water (to add later if your beans seem too dry -- I did not need any).
  5. Mix beans and onion mixture together gently to try to keep the beans intact. Stir in the Parmesan and basil. Add more salt to taste and serve warm or at room temperature.
  6. You can easily veganize this recipe with omitting the Parmesan and adjusting the salt.


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