Not Your Average Beans n Ham

Ham Loaf LO
White Beans with Celery
The cutest Cauliflower you’ve ever seen

b_caulif_detail We were getting ready for the first “regular” night of the San Francisco International Film Festival (SFIFF54 or “The International”); we had been to Opening Night, Thursday, and it featured a party after with all the food you could eat… much of it good. The International runs for two weeks and most of the films occur before, during or after dinnertime, so we home cooks need to plan ahead… something easy that can be eaten without fuss.

On this night, a Friday, I planned leftover (LO) ham loaf with something. Perusing my ‘to cook’ files on the computer, I came across White Beans with Celery by Martha Rose Shulman who writes Recipes for Health in the New York Times. I thought I had cooked that, but there were no notes to prove it. In any case, I had a half-pound of flageolet beans and a big head of supermarket celery, so I went for it. I got four lovely tiny baby cauliflower from Dirty Girl Produce at the Market and they hadn’t yet found their way into our bellies. Those would be nice as a side dish.

It’s a whole day affair, what with the soaking of the beans, cooking of the beans and baking of the dish, but the active time is scant. Again, plan ahead for this dish:

11am beans in to soak
4pm ready to cook
5pm beans cooked
5:30 beans in oven
6:30 beans on table
8pm leave for Kabuki
9pm Meeks Cutoff (Carol)
9:30 The City Below (Marc)

I cooked the beans in plain water… the flageolets take only about 45 minutes. I hacked 5 cups of celery in about half inch pieces from the top of my head and carefully rinsed them. My time schedule worked just fine as I cooked the celery. That went in the baking dish, a soufflé dish. I lifted the beans from their liquid with a slotted spoon and mixed that together with the celery, mixed in my home made tomato sauce. It took all of the bean cooking water to cover the beans as directed and into the oven it went for an hour.

beans and celery cook

beans and celery cook

beans and celery ready for oven

beans and celery ready for oven

beans and celery out of the oven

beans and celery out of the oven

It seemed awfully soupy coming out of the oven, but as long as the flavor is there, that’s not a crime. That will hold or can be warmed up. On to the hamloaf…b_plated Remember back when I did the open face mortadella and cheese sandwich to eat with asparagus soup? Sure you do. Well, I took a variation on that for the ham loaf.

I decided to make a warm open faced sandwich and took two pieces of Oroweat Russian Rye bread, buttered one side and spread the other side with mustard. Sliced two pieces of ham loaf — they fit the bread almost perfectly — and put them in a skillet with a little olive oil to brown. Picked up a slice on a spatula, put a piece of bread in the skillet butter side down and flopped the ham slice, browned side up, onto the mustard side of the bread. (Harder to write than do.) Repeat with the other slice.

The bread gets crispy and shares its mustard with the ham loaf and that is just as good as can be. Meanwhile, I steamed the tiny cauliflower and dressed it with a simple vinaigrette. And that was dinner.


The next day, Carol pureed the leftover and made a very good soup. Since the recipe makes a lot, and the vegetables were kinda soupy anyway, that’s a plan.

The New York Times
July 16, 2009 Recipes for Health

White Beans With Celery
By MARTHA ROSE SHULMAN Yield: Serves four.

1/2 pound (about 1 1/8 cups) white beans, rinsed, picked over and soaked for six hours or overnight in 1 quart water
Salt to taste
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 to 5 cups chopped celery, including the leaves
4 large garlic cloves, minced
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce, or 2 tablespoons tomato paste diluted in 1 cup water
1/4 to 1/2 cup finely chopped parsley (to taste)
Juice of 1 to 2 lemons, to taste

1. Soak and cook the beans.
2. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet, and add the celery and a generous pinch of salt. Cook, stirring often, until it just begins to soften, about three minutes, and add the garlic. Stir together for a minute, until the garlic is fragrant, and remove from the heat.
3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Drain the beans over a bowl. Place in a large baking dish, preferably earthenware, and toss with the celery and garlic, the remaining olive oil and the tomato sauce or diluted tomato paste. Add enough of the drained broth to cover by an inch, and stir in the remaining olive oil. Cover the dish tightly with foil, and place in the oven. Bake one hour, or until the beans are soft and creamy.
4. Uncover the beans, stir, and add salt and pepper to taste. Add a tablespoon or 2 of lemon juice, or more if desired, and adjust salt and pepper. Serve hot, warm or room temperature, with a little more olive oil drizzled over the top if desired.
Advance preparation: The beans will keep for three days in the refrigerator. You may want to thin them out with a little water or broth.

This dish is inspired by a Greek recipe from Diane Kochilas’s “The Glorious Foods of Greece” that calls for giant white beans and about three times as much olive oil. I had regular white beans in my pantry and a bunch of celery left over from a recipe that called for only a couple of stalks (which happens so often). I love the textures here. The celery retains a little crunch, which contrasts nicely with the soft beans.

Martha Rose Shulman can be reached at

2 thoughts on “Not Your Average Beans n Ham

  1. Perhaps 3/4 pounds of beans might alleviate the “soupy-ness” ? Or perhaps the flageolets absorb less than your standard bean? But, to quote Duke Ellington’s cook: “If it tastes good, it is good.”


  2. Marc, ‘spose b-i-l’s eat White beans and Celery? LOL


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