Great Mother Stallard beans on a bed of wheatberries with roasted celeriac, turnips, and brussels sprouts

These are the Great Mother Stallard beans from Rancho Gordo. As you can see, they’re gorgeous. I mean, even a person who doesn’t like beans would have to at least appreciate their beauty. Yes? Or maybe no. Although they didn’t blow me away like their friend Rio Zape, they’re pretty good. But those non-bean lovers are weird. And I’m no crusader. Not really. Not anymore.

When I first got all obsessed with beans, I sang their praises to every unfortunate soul I met. I had a missionary complex, was convinced that the lives of everyone I met would be much better if only they started eating more beans. When I encountered resistance, I insisted that no, they just hadn’t yet tried the right beans, prepared the right way. MY way, of course. And this is before I discovered heirloom beans. Oy.

It really was obnoxious. Which, sadly, I realized only when a dear friend, someone who is witty and hilarious and also probably the most considerate person I’ve ever met, finally, exhausted, explained his deep and abiding hatred of beans. It was the texture, he said. He really tried to avoid telling me, to spare my feelings. Which meant that when he finally did explain, the obvious effort and discomfort he felt at hurting my feelings somehow enabled me to finally learn that regardless of what I believed, he was entitled to his feelings.

Of course this is an obvious truth. Yet for me it was, and remains, a difficult lesson. Indeed, it’s one I seem to be learning over and over again lately. Not so much with food, but with relationships. I think maybe I’m going to be stuck in this track for the near future. Life lesson 2,000,022. Or something like that. I lost count long ago. As far as beans go, though, I think I’ve got it. Not everyone likes them. It doesn’t matter if I cook the most beautiful, best-tasting beans the world has ever seen. They still won’t like them. And that’s okay.

It’s okay because I still know plenty of people who do like beans. Thank goodness. Because I would be a sad little bunny if I couldn’t feed the people I love. And these days I want to feed them beans. Therefore I’ve been completely geeked all week because I had a date to cook dinner at my place for a bean-loving friend. Fun!

I spent the past couple of days daydreaming about menu ideas, trying to come up with a beautiful, satisfying, well-rounded vegan meal. (Although she’s not actually a vegan, she’s trying.) Since I had the entire day, I wanted to do something more complicated, maybe with multiple courses. But today, while I cooked and cleaned and listened to music after too little sleep last night and an intense Forrest class far too early this morning, I gradually pared down the plan and decided to keep it simple. I would just layer several uncomplicated individual components together to create a complex flavor without expending a lot of effort.

So this isn’t really a recipe as much as a collection. It takes a while to make everything. However, much of that time is not hands on, which leaves you free to do other things. You could also save time by using fewer, or easier, vegetables.

The next time I make this I will likely cook frizzled kale instead of brussels sprouts and maybe sweet potato instead of butternut squash. That would save time because the kale cooks on the stove top and sweet potato will cook more quickly than butternut squash. It’s a versatile dish. But whatever you change up, leave the turnip. It was really good. For now, here’s the “recipe” for the version I made tonight. Sorry there’s no photo. Hopefully I’ll get the light box done tomorrow.

Great Mother Stallard beans
1 lb. beans, soaked 4-6 hours if desired
1 sm. onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 T. olive oil
1 thumb-sized piece kombu
1 – 2 t. salt

Heat the oil in a 4- to 6-quart pot over medium-high heat. Saute the onions for about 3 minutes, then add the garlic and saute for an additional minute. Add the beans and the kombu, with water to cover by about an inch. Bring the beans to a boil. After 5 minutes or so, reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook until tender, adding salt after about an hour, when the beans have started to soften. The beans I cooked today, which soaked for 4 hours, took about 2-1/2 hours.

1 med. celeriac, trimmed and cut into 3/4-1″ cubes
20 Brussels sprouts, trimmed and whole (or however many you want — they will be good leftover)
1 med. turnip, trimmed and cut into 3/4″ wedges
1 sm. butternut squash, peeled, trimmed, and cut into 3/4″ cubes
olive oil to coat

Preheat the oven to 400. Toss the vegetables in olive oil, separately. Season with salt. Cook in batches, one or two types at a time (I did the celeriac and turnips together, but gave the Brussels sprouts and squash their own turns), making sure the individual pieces have plenty of space. The celeriac and turnips took about 40 minutes, turning every 15 minutes or so. Although I left the Brussels sprouts in for 30 minutes, they were probably perfect after 25. And the squash took about an hour. You want everything to brown and get a little crispy. If you crowd them together everything will just steam. Which isn’t as good. Once everything is finished, transfer to a platter or baking sheet and keep in the oven at a low temperature until you’re ready to serve.

1-1/2 c. wheatberries, rinsed and soaked for 1 hour
pinch of salt
3 T. sherry vinegar
1 T. walnut oil

Drain and rinse. Put the wheatberries in a medium saucepan, add a pinch of salt, and cover with about an inch of water. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until tender, about an 1-1/2 hours. Keep an eye on the water level and add more as necessary to make sure the top doesn’t dry out. At the end of the cooking time, switch off the heat, cover, and let sit for about 20 or 30 minutes. Sprinkle the vinegar and oil over the wheatberries and stir gently to combine.

When you’re ready to serve, scoop some wheatberries onto a plate. Spread them out, top with a ladle of beans, and then arrange veggies across the top. This makes a lot of food, probably enough for 8. If, like me, you’re feeding only 1 or 2, you will have leftovers. I’m thinking that for lunch tomorrow I will toss a cup of beans with pasta and veggies. The beans and wheatberries will probably also make a nice cold salad. As for the squash, I may use that to revisit the kale salad I made a few days ago. It’s addictive.

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