White bean, spinach, and pecan timbales

White bean, spinach, and pecan timbales

White bean, spinach, and pecan timbales

I’ve just discovered that a “hope” is a piece of enclosed land in the midst of fens or marshes or of waste-land generally. (OED) It’s also a small, enclosed valley, or an inlet, a small bay or a haven, you’ll find “wide green holms and deep blind ‘hopes’ or hollows among the mountains.” What a beautiful idea! Hope is a place. A verdant, sheltered, fertile place in a swampy treacherous world. A haven. You can travel to Hope, over the mountains, through the swamps, or across the sea, and find shelter from the winds and waves and quagmires. You may be driven there by “contrarie winds,” after weeks or years adrift and uncertain with no clear course. When the storm calms, you’ll find yourself in a quiet, peaceful place where you can safely come aground and think clearly and make plans for your future. Or maybe you’ve heard stories of Hope, and all your life you’ve thought, “one day I’ll make a journey there.” You live in a cluttered ugly world surrounded by confusion and discouragement, by empty cleverness and petty competition. So you gather your supplies, your favorite foods, your bag of wine, your warm clothes and walking stick, your good friends and your best dog, and you’ll set out for Hope, having adventures along the way that inevitably involve trolls and dragons and giant spiders. Or maybe Hope is closer than you think. Maybe you live in a giant landfill, a wasteland of garbage where nothing good grows, and everything goes to rot and ruin. But somewhere in the middle of it all is a sweet-smelling refuge, a Hope where people are working on good things. And however you get there, once you reach Hope you’ll find what you need to make whatever you’ve been dreaming of. You’ll find rich soil and soft warm rains and abundant sunshine, you’ll plant seeds, and you’ll wait and watch for them to grow. You’ll tend the bright tender seedlings, and wait and plan for their fruits and flowers, which will be beautiful and nourishing. You’ll remember where you came from, and think about where you’re going; you’ll mix desire with memory and expectation. And when the flowers and fruits come, you’ll share them with everybody you know and even with those you don’t. And they’ll plant the seeds and grow more fruits and flowers and share those with everyone they know and even those they don’t…

It’s funny because we live in a very very small town. You could walk one end to the other in under a half hour, probably. But we have a towpath! It goes beyond the town to the North for miles and miles through other towns, and it goes below the town for miles and miles through other towns and cities, along other rivers. I know this because I have seen it with my own eyes! You always have the feeling that you could just walk and walk forever, and discover new places. It’s McElligot’s towpath. Once you travel down it, you never know what you’ll find! But for over a month it’s been hard to walk, because of snow and ice and general treacherousness. It makes the town feel so small. It makes me long for spring, when we can explore again, and find all of the secret fields and valleys that the towpath leads to. All of the Hopes. And David just said he saw a bluebird on the way home from work!

White bean, spinach and pecan timbales

White bean, spinach and pecan timbales

I made these on Valentine’s day for a Special Meal. I wanted something main coursey and steaky but still, obviously, vegetarian. So I made these, and I served them over a sort of pilaf of rice and farro cooked with annatto oil and smoked paprika. And we had cauliflower puree, and some kind of sauce, but I can’t remember which one. And that’s that!

Here’s All the Places by Pete Rock and CL Smooth.

2 T butter
1 clove garlic, minced
2 t rosemary
3 cups baby spinach
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 cup grated mozzarella
1 cup grated smoked gouda or cheddar
1 cup toasted chopped pecans
1 cup cooked small white beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 t salt
lots of freshly ground pepper
1 t balsamic vinegar or lemon juice
pinch nutmeg

Preheat then oven to 425 and lightly oil some small tins or large muffin tins (shallow ones would work best, if you have them).

In a large frying pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the garlic and rosemary. When the butter is bubbly and starting to brown, add the spinach. Stir and cook for a minute or two until the spinach is wilted and bright. Set aside to cool slightly.

In a food processor, whiz the eggs until light and fluffy. Add the milk and cheeses and process again. Add the spinach and process briefly. Then add the beans, pecans, salt, pepper, vinegar or lemon and nutmeg. Process just to combine. You don’t want everything to be smooth…you want pieces of bean and pecan.

Pour the batter into the prepared tins, and bake for 20 – 25 minutes until firm to the touch and golden brown. Remove from the pans, and serve over rice or faro or some other grain. (I made a combination of both, which I cooked with annatto oil and smoked paprika!)

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