This beautiful month of October is a busy retreat month at the Monastery. Tomorrow we serve 27 people a retreat standby of pasta with marinara sauce for lunch. There is a side dish we usually serve with this meal that gets a backseat billing, so to speak. There is no memory of anyone ever asking for the recipe nor would we put it at the head of the table, and yet it is a most beautiful simple dish that has its place.
There are many things to enjoy about this dish, things that may go unnoticed by those who gather for lunch. One of the key ingredients in the dish is fresh sage. To gather the sage means a trip to the lower garden and an opportunity to visit the grandmother of all sage plants growing there. It is at least a decade old and probably two. It generously offers fragrant sage the year round and asks nothing in return. Everything is the Buddha!
Back in the kitchen, the sage is combined with small white beans, garlic, olive oil, and water. The whole pot goes into the oven to bake slowly and gently over the morning until the beans and garlic are meltingly soft. Such love.
13 oz. dried small white beans
7 cups water
2 large cloves garlic
5 leaves fresh sage
1 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. salt
- Sort through beans and remove any small stones or shriveled beans. Rinse and place beans in a bowl, adding enough water to cover by at least two inches. Let soak overnight.
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
- Drain the beans, rinse again and drain. Place the beans in a cast iron pot and add the water. Add the garlic, sage, and olive oil, and bring to a slight simmer over low heat.
- Once the beans are simmering, remove from the stove and place them in the oven. Cover and cook 2 hours or more, until the beans are very tender. Check occasionally to see that the beans remain covered with water, adding more water if needed.
- When the beans are tender, drain some of the juice from the beans if necessary. Add salt, stir in gently, and return to the oven for another five minutes.