Bruschetta di fagioli e pomodori
TOASTED BREAD WITH WHITE BEANS AND TOMATO
FAGIOLI: The Bean Cuisine of Italy

A sumptuous appetizer of beans and tomatoes served on thick slices of lightly toasted country-style bread. If you can find it, I recommend Tuscan bread, which is unsalted. It may be hard to come by, unless you bake your own. Other types of country loaves make good substitutes. Cut the slices about 1 inch thick and lightly toast them. You and your guests can eat the bruschetta with a knife and fork, but fingers are much more fun.

1 CUP DRIED CANNELLINI OR GREAT NORTHERN BEANS OR 2 CUPS COOKED WHITE BEANS, DRAINED
  SALT
2 TABLESPOONS OLIVE OIL
2 LARGE CLOVES GARLIC, 1 FINELY CHOPPED, 1 WHOLE
  PINCH OF PEPERONCINO (RED PEPPER FLAKES)
1 MEDIUM RED ONION, FINELY CHOPPED
1MEDIUM RIPE TOMATO, CORED, SEEDED, AND CHOPPED
4 SLICES (1 INCH THICK) TUSCAN OR OTHER COUNTRY-STYLE BREAD
  EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL, FOR SERVING
5 STEMS FRESH ITALIAN FLAT-LEAF PARSLEY, LEAVES ONLY, CHOPPED

If you are using dried beans, soak them in cold water for 8 hours or longer. Drain and discard the soaking water. Rinse under cold water and drain again. Combine the beans with 6 cups cold water in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. When the water begins to boil, lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, about 1 hour, until the beans are tender. Season with salt, turn off the heat, and allow to cool to room temperature. Drain.

Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the chopped garlic, peperoncino, and onion and cook, stirring, 5 to 7 minutes, until the onion has softened but isn't brown. Stir in the tomato and continue cooking until it begins to give up its juice and lose its bright red color, 2 to 3 minutes longer. Add the cooked beans and season with salt to taste. Using a wooden spoon, stir the beans into the onion and tomato mixture while mashing the beans against the side of the skillet. Continue cooking and stirring until the mixture is heated through and about half the beans remain whole. Turn off the heat and set aside.

While the beans are cooking, toast the bread until lightly browned on the edges (you don't want it to be well-browned). Place the toast on a serving plate and rub the whole clove of garlic over the surface of the toast to lightly flavor it. Drizzle extra virgin olive oil over the toast slices. Spoon some of the bean and tomato mixture onto each piece of toast and sprinkle parsley over the beans.

Makes 4 servings