1 ½ hours plus soaking time
1 cup dried borlotti (cranberry) beans
Fine Trapani sea salt
1 bay leaf
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 ounces country-style white or whole-wheat bread (crusts removed)
Flesh from 1 pound winter squash, such as kabocha squash or Hubbard squash, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 medium yellow onion, cut into small dice
2 large carrots, scrubbed and cut into small dice
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
1 dried arbol chili pepper, seeded and crumbled
⅛ teaspoon freshly ground black tellecherry pepper
1 clove garlic, cut in half
Place the beans in a pot with water to cover by several inches; bring to a boil, and boil for 1 minute. Remove from the heat, cover the pot and let the beans soak for 1 hour. Or, soak in tepid water to cover by several inches for 8 to 12 hours.
Add a generous pinch of salt, the bay leaf and 1 tablespoon of the oil to the beans and their soaking liquid. Add water,if necessary, to keep the beans submerged by 2 to 3 inches. Cook over medium-high heat. Once the liquid starts to bubble, reduce the heat to medium-low, partially cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the beans are just tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour. The beans may take longer than 1 hour to cook. Leave them in their soaking liquid while you finish preparing the rest of the gratin.
Tear the bread into chunks and place them in a food processor; pulse into crumbs. Transfer to a bowl and drizzle with 2 teaspoons of the oil, tossing to coat evenly.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Toss the squash pieces with 1 tablespoon of the oil and 1/4 teaspoon of fine sea salt. Roast for 20 to 30 minutes, turning them once after about 15 minutes, until lightly golden and tender.
Heat 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon of the oil in a large, heavy saute pan over medium heat. Add the onion and carrots, stirring to coat; cook until tender and just beginning to turn golden, about 7 minutes. Stir in the thyme, fennel seed and dried arbor chili pepper. cook for 2 minutes, then gently fold in the squash just until incorporated.
Discard the bay leaf in the beans. Drain the beans, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid, and gently stir them into the squash mixture. Season with 1/4 teaspoon salt and the black pepper.
Rub the bottom and sides of a shallow 2-quart baking dish with the cut halves of garlic. Discard the garlic or reserve for another use.
Transfer the bean-squash mixture to the baking dish. Pour 3/4 to 1 cup of the reserved bean-cooking liquid evenly over the top of the dish (see headnote), and drizzle with the remaining tablespoon of oil. Sprinkle with the bread crumbs.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the mixture is bubbling and the crumbs are golden. Wait for at least 15 minutes before serving.
recipe adapted and photo from washingtonpost.com