FLAGEOLETS BRETONNE (French white beans with tomatoes, for six)
1 pound dried flageolets (about 2-1/4 cups), Great Northern or other white beans, picked over and rinsed
1 onion studded with 5 or 6 cloves
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons butter
1 onion, chopped
¼ cup tomato puree
4 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped (or a 28 ounce can chopped tomatoes, drained, juice reserved for later use if the finished beans become too dry)
3 cloves garlic, minced
coarse salt and freshly grounds black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
1. Either place the beans in a bowl with water to cover them by 2 inches and let them soak overnight, or “quick soak” them by bringing 5 quarts water to a rapid boil in a large bean pot or saucepan, adding the beans, and cooking them for exactly 2 minutes after the water returns to a boil. Turn off the heat and allow the beans to soak, covered, for exactly 1 hour, then drain. Rinse under cold water and, if you are not going to proceed immediately, leave the beans in cold water to cover until you are ready to use them.
2. Drain the beans and return them to the pot. Add water to cover by 1 inch and the onion studded with cloves, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until the beans are tender, about 1 to 1-1/2 hours. Season with salt.
3. Meanwhile, prepare the sauce. In a skillet heat the butter, add the chopped onion and cook, stirring often, until brown. Add the tomato puree, tomatoes, garlic and salt and pepper. Simmer the mixture about 30 minutes and add the cooked and drained beans. Reheat and top with parsley.
adapted from Craig Claiborne, The New York Times Cookbook