The time-honored Italian pairing of white beans and tuna is a perennial favorite at our house. You can use any cannellini or white beans for this dish, but my favorite variety is the Marcella beans that I order online from Rancho Gordo, an heirloom-bean grower in California. I toss the warm beans with a green herb oil and top them with the best-quality tuna packed in olive oil. You can also serve the beans with grilled tuna or another fish steak and shaved bottarga, or simmer them with an entire head of escarole (trimmed and chopped) added during the last 30 minutes of cooking.
I can’t resist adding a Parmesan rind to any pot of white beans. I love how the cheese imparts a rich flavor. Even though you drain the beans for this recipe, save the flavorful cooking liquid and freeze it to make white bean soup or minestrone.
- Prepare a charcoal grill for two-zone cooking and build a medium-high fire, or heat a gas grill to high.
- When the coals are glowing red and covered with a fine gray ash, use tongs to remove the cooking grate and place a drip pan with 1 inch (2.5 cm) of warm water on the side with no coals, and add your smoke source (chips, chunks, or log). Return the cooking grate to its position, allow it to preheat, and then carefully wipe the preheated grill grates with a lightly oiled paper towel. Using a grill brush, scrape the grill grates clean, then carefully wipe with a lightly oiled towel again.
- To smoke dried peas, beans, or legumes, place them in a disposable aluminum pan or atop two sheets of heavy-duty aluminum foil (crimp the edges of foil upward to create a rim and prevent them from sliding off). When the fire begins to produce a steady stream of smoke, place the pan over indirect heat, close the grill, vent the grill for smoking, and smoke for 25 to 40 minutes, until the peas, beans, or legumes are deeply fragrant and have darkened slightly. For even results, stir the ingredients and rotate the individual containers (if you’re smoking more than one item) around the heat after 15 to 20 minutes, and keep an eye on their color after 30 minutes to ensure they don’t become too dark.
- To prepare the beans, rinse the beans and discard any pebbles. Place the beans, sage, bay leaves (to taste), garlic, and Parmesan rind in a large saucepan and add enough cold water to cover by 4 inches (10 cm). Bring the beans to a boil over medium-high heat, then turn the heat to low and simmer very gently until the beans are tender, about 1 hour 15 minutes, skimming off any scum that rises to the surface. Remove the pan from the heat, and if time allows, let the beans cool in the cooking liquid.
- Meanwhile, to make the green herb oil, combine the garlic, salt, and pepper flakes in the bowl of a food processor and pulse into a coarse paste. Add the herbs and pulse until combined. With the processor running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil until the mixture pulls together into an even puree, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.
- Drain the beans in a colander and transfer to a large mixing bowl, discarding the sage, bay leaves, garlic, and Parmesan rind. Pour the green herb oil over the top and gently toss the mixture until combined. Season with salt and pepper, then transfer to a large serving platter.
- In the same mixing bowl, combine the tuna, shallot, and lemon zest and juice and use a fork to gently combine (leaving the tuna in larger chunks, if possible). Season the tuna mixture with salt and pepper, then use a rubber spatula to place the mixture on the top of the beans. Serve immediately, with grilled bread and lemon wedges on the side. Store leftovers in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
Reprinted with permission from "Thank You for Smoking," copyright © 2019 by Paula Disbrowe. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. Photographs copyright © 2019 by Johnny Autry
Paula Disbrowe is the author of Thank You for Smoking.