I'm reluctant to call anything having to do with seasonal and local food a "problem," so I'll just say I have a "farmers' market impulse purchase tendency." My latest "oooooooh pretty" purchase was a bag of fresh cranberry beans. I bought these gorgeous pink and white pods just before boarding a train to a beach cottage for the weekend last Friday. The only problem (or let's call it a "challenge") was that I had no idea how to cook them and didn't have access to the internet (i.e., the Epicurious recipe database) or any cookbooks. Read on to find out how it went.
I did have access to my beloved cast iron skillet (which I recently learned is the beach cookware of choice for the novelist Jhumpa Lahiri too) and the man I bought the beans from told me to "cook them in a pan" so I figured I was good to go. I sautéed garlic, zucchini, and tomatoes in olive oil, then added the cranberry beans and continued to sauté. For some reason I thought they'd be done in about five minutes. They were not, so I added water, and kept adding water and simmering until the beans were fairly well cooked (about 25 minutes), though still a little less tender than seemed ideal. I then added fresh corn kernels, cooked it all for a few more minutes, then added chopped fresh basil and tossed the mixture with pasta and soft goat cheese.
The resulting concoction was actually quite tasty but next time I plan to cook the beans in water or broth rather than trying to sauté them like a vegetable. I figure that'll keep my veggies from getting mushy while my beans are still tough. That's how it's done in this recipe for Cranberry Beans by the chef Frank Stitt, which my coworker Sarah Kagan swears by. I also found a fantastic-sounding recipe for Fresh Cranberry Bean and Arugula Salad on the blog Brooklyn Farmhouse (seems I'm not the only New York-based blogger who found cranberry beans at the market). In addition, Epicurious's Fresh Cranberry Bean Salad recipe gets very good reviews and also sounds delicious.
Do you have a preparation method for fresh cranberry beans or any other fresh bean? Please share!
by Megan O. Steintrager
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