This weekend was absolutely gorgeous in Seattle, the kind of day that keeps you loving Seattle even when it’s mid-February and you’ve been staring out the window for the past month at nothing but gray drizzle. Not a cloud in the sky, 70 degrees, and the lovely smell of fresh air that the soul needs so desperately come Friday at 5 PM. So after spending all day Saturday cooped up at a conference, I was anxious to hit the Sunday Ballard Farmer’s Market. I think this time of year the Northwest farmer’s markets must be in their absolute prime, singing with bold colors, textures, flavors and smells. It’s heaven.
No trouble finding a unique and fun-looking new ingredient to snag for this week’s farmer’s market find. In fact, it was nearly impossible to choose just one. Check out these fabulous cranberry beans. They are long pink marble-y pods, about 4 inches long with 5 or so beans per pod – each the size of a smallish lima. At first glance, they almost look like strips of bacon, which was probably why SM (boyfriend, & roomie, but above all: bacon lover) agreed. The woman working at the stand recommended boiling the beans for about 40 minutes until soft, then tossing with some sauteed chopped onion, olive oil, tomatoes, and bacon. But I remembered a recipe I had seen in one of Jamie Oliver’s cookbooks and decided to give that a try instead.
This would be a lovely appetizer or small plate for a dinner party, served on diagonal slices of baguette. Or it’d also work nicely as a hearty lunch on sliced sourdough toast. It packs a lot of rich, creamy goodness, with hints of thyme, rosemary, and red wine vinegar. The specks of fresh parsley and tomato are instantly interesting. In the recipe Jamie notes that you can use any kind of bean, but the cranberry beans have a wonderfully mild, nutty flavor. If you don’t have fresh beans, you can use dried, just be sure to pick over them and soak for at least 12 hours.
Do you have cranberry beans at your market? How do you like to cook them? They’re only in season for a few weeks, but I’ll be sure to pick more up next week and try a saute. Enjoy!
Humble Home-Cooked Beans
From Jamie Oliver’s Jamie At Home
Active Time: approx. 1 hour
11 ounces cranberry beans
3 cloves garlic, unpeeled
A few sprigs fresh thyme
A sprig fresh rosemary
3 bay leaves
1 stick celery, trimmed
1 small potato, peeled and halved
2 cherry tomatoes
Extra-virgin olive oil
Red wine vinegar
A few sprigs fresh at-leaf parsley, chopped
4 slices sourdough bread
Shell the beans, and place them in a deep pot and cover them with cold water. Add the garlic, herb sprigs, bay leaves, celery stick, potato and tomatoes.
Place the beans on the heat and slowly bring to the boil. Cover with a lid and simmer very gently for 30 minutes to an hour, until soft and cooked nicely. Skim if necessary, topping up with boiling water from the kettle if you need to.
When the beans are cooked, drain them in a colander, reserving enough of the cooking water to cover them halfway up when put back in the pot.
Remove the garlic, herbs, celery, potato and tomatoes from the beans. Squeeze the garlic cloves out of their skins and pinch the skin off the tomatoes.
Put the garlic, tomatoes and potato onto a plate, mash them with a fork and stir back into the beans & cooking water. Season well with salt and pepper, and pour in 3 generous glugs of extra-virgin olive oil and a few splashes of vinegar.
Stir in the parsley and serve on some toasted sourdough bread.
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