Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Can you believe it's time for Cranberry Beans!?



Oh my gosh! I am so behind! I haven’t posted to the blog in weeks! Not a good thing, but now I am back and ready to roll…


So on that note…You know how when you need a new coat, and you know you need to go to try on that WOOL coat in AUGUST, because you know that’s the best time to look, because that’s when the new styles are in the stores, but you are having trouble getting your head around winter clothes in the summer…okay, so when the cranberry beans showed up in the farmer’s market this week I had a bit of that feeling come over me. For those unfamiliar with these beans, they are wonderful in hearty stews, soups and all foods winter. Cranberry beans have a slightly nutty flavor, are rich and creamy and don’t get mushy when cooked in a stew or soup. A real winter food and about the last thing I am thinking about when there are loads of summer fruits and vegetables to be had! I was introduced to these beans a few years ago by a man at the farmers market…he was purchasing as many as he could get in his basket!
When I asked him what was the big deal he went on and on about the virtues of these beans, to the point that I thought I needed to give them a whirl. I’ve never looked back. They are my ‘go to bean’…the problem is that they are an heirloom and are not a bean that shows up in every store as a dried bean.
Soooo, when they appear at the farmers market, I jump on them – I’ve become that guy, buying up all the beans in town. Actually I purchase them during a few trips to the market since they need to be shelled and that can get a little tedious in huge doses. These beans freeze well, so getting them fresh, shelling them and putting them into packages, say 2 cups per bag and then putting them in the freezer is pretty perfect. Fresh beans don’t need any soaking to get them ready for cooking and they cook more quickly, so when you decide at say 5:30 on Saturday that you want a hearty soup for dinner, it’s no big deal! I have used them for everything from minestrone soup, to chili and lots of other concoctions I have dreamed up out of all the tidbits in the refrigerator. There is a wonderful recipe for minestrone soup in
Alice Waters’ book The Art of Simple Food. She has four variations, one for each season and the one for fall is my personal favorite and one of my favorite places for Cranberry Beans.


Fall Minestrone
Adapted from Alice Waters – The Art of Simple Food


2 cup of fresh Cranberry Beans
1/4 cup olive oil plus more for garnish
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled and coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon chopped rosemary
2 ribs celery, finely chopped
1 teaspoon chopped sage
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons salt
3 cups water
1 leek, diced
1 Qt. jar of tomatoes – I use a Qt. jar of the tomatoes I can in the summer which is really
Yummy!
1 bunch of kale, washed, stemmed, and chopped
1/2 butternut squash, peeled and cubed
grated parmesan cheese for garnish

Heat in a heavy bottomed pan over low heat:
olive oil, carrots, onion
Cook for 15 minutes or until tender

Add:
garlic, rosemary, sage, salt, bay leaf, tomatoes, kale
Cook for 5 minutes

Add beans and 3 cups of water, and bring to a boil
When boiling, add the leeks and squash
Cook for 15 minutes, or until the squash and beans are tender

Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with olive oil and Parmesan.

So when the weather gets cool enough to even think about this recipe, I encourage you to try it!

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