1/4 cup each 4 kinds of beans
5 garlic cloves, peeled
4 small carrots, peeled and cut into 4 pieces
12 sprigs thyme
1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for serving
Freshly ground black pepper
Splashes sherry or red wine vinegar
8 very thin slices pancetta
Place each type of dried bean in a separate saucepan (yes, this is the only annoying part of the recipe; if you’d prefer to do them together, time them according to size, adding the largest beans first and add the rest progressively so that they all finish cooking at once — good luck!). Cover with at least 3 inches of water. Add 1 carrot (in pieces), 1 garlic clove and 2 sprigs thyme to each pan.
Bring to a gentle simmer — the water should burp rather than bubble. Cook the beans until just tender but not at all mushy, 1 to 2 hours, depending on the size of the bean. Drain, rinse under cool water, and let cool. Discard the carrot, garlic and thyme.
Mince the remaining garlic clove. In a large saucepan, briefly warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the beans and cook for 1 minute, just to slightly warm the beans and disperse the garlic oil. Season with salt and pepper. Strip the leaves from the remaining thyme sprigs and add them to the beans. Add vinegar to taste — it should sharpen the flavors but nothing more. Taste and adjust the salt — yes, again!
Heat the broiler. Arrange the pancetta on a baking sheet. Broil until crisp.
Spoon the bean salad onto a wide, shallow serving dish. Top with the pancetta and sprinkle with a little more olive oil.