I’ve done it again. Succumbed to bright and pretty at the Farmers Market. While I should have just bought a couple of kilos of these brilliantly colored, fresh cranberry beans in their pods, I ended up walking away with the entire crate. Can you blame me?
I’ve spoken in the past about the superiority of dried beans over canned. But the best by far is when you can find them fresh. I know it’s not easy, and unless you have access to a pretty well stocked Farmer’s Market you might be out of luck. But if you do see them, buy them. They are that good.
Unlike dried beans they obviously require no soaking. They cook up pretty fast – usually in about 20 minutes or so – once you’ve done the heavy lifting of shelling them.
I’m usually not one for choosing excess prep work, but these beans were so pretty, that I settled myself very happily outside in the garden in Todi and spent a lovely 45 minutes (I told you I bought the whole crate) shelling away.
By the time I was finished I had enough beans for two different dishes.
When beans are this fresh they have an extraordinary flavor and complexity, a deep earthiness that doesn’t require much intervention to bring them to the table.
Since it has been unseasonably chilly , my first choice was a simple bean soup. Olive oil, garlic and onions were the only flavorings. I didn’t even use stock beyond the water that the beans were cooked in.
The rest of the beans got cooked up, drained and tossed with celery and red onions to become a side for grilled sausages the next day.
Since things are so simple, it’s important to bring out your best quality extra virgin olive oil. These babies soak it up, and give it back to you in the most luscious and fruity combination.
- 5 cups fresh shelled cranberry beans
- 1 large white onion
- 1 bay leaf
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped
- ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
- salt, pepper
- Bring a large pot of water to boil, and add about a tablespoon of salt. Add bay leaf and half of the onion, in one piece. Add the beans and then bring back to a simmer.
- Beans will vary in cooking time, so keep checking them. They should take anywhere from 20 minutes to a half hour or so. You want them to be thoroughly cooked.
- In the meantime add the olive oil to another big pot, and heat gently. Add the garlic and the rest of the onion, that you have chopped. Add 1 tsp of salt and some freshly ground pepper. Cook over medium heat until the onion is softened.
- When the beans are done, drain, reserving the cooking liquid.
- Fish out the bay leaf and throw away. Don’t worry about the onion, it’s probably fallen apart.
- Add the beans to the oil and cook them over medium heat for about 10 minutes, so that they absorb the flavors. Add back the cooking water, so that it comes up about an inch and a half over the top of the beans. If there doesn’t seem to be enough, you can add water.
- Stir and bring to a simmer. Let cook another ten minutes.
- Using an immersible blender, puree the soup to the desired consistency. I like mine a little chunky.
- Serve topped with a swirl of olive oil, and parsley or chives if you have it.
- 4 cups shelled fresh cranberry beans
- 2 cups chopped celery (heart only) and some of the smaller leaves
- 1 medium sized red onion, finely chopped
- ½ cup chopped pasley
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tsp red wine vinegar
- salt, pepper
- Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add about a tablespoon of kosher salt.
- Add the beans and cook until just tender. Keep checking them, since you don’t want the beans to go all mushy and fresh beans cook quicker than you expect. It should take about 20 to 25 minutes.
- In the meantime, place the chopped onion in a bowl big enough to hold the beans. Add the vinegar, and about 1 tsp of salt. Stir and let sit.
- When beans are done drain them. While still warm, add them to the onions mixture. Toss well.
- Add the rest of the ingredients and season to taste. Serve at room temperature.