January 31, 2006

Cranberry Bean Salad

Okay, so you now know all about Cranberry Beans and have been anxiously awaiting this second post so that we can make something yummy with the beans—right?! Or are you just curious where the red specks on the beans go when they are cooked? Personally, I think I was more curious about the red specks! But let’s start with the recipe…

Since I am new to this bean (and probably you are too), I chose a recipe that serves the beans in the traditional Italian way. I think it is best to first stick to the basics to learn about the taste of the beans before making anything fancy with them. Besides, the southern European folks have been eating them much longer than us, so I trust they know what they doing!

So here is the recipe (serves 4 as a side dish):

  • 1 1/2 pounds fresh cranberry beans in pods (you can also use lima beans)
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, or to taste
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley or basil leaves
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Shell beans. In a large saucepan of boiling water cook beans with salt until tender and no longer mealy, 10 to 20 minutes. Drain beans and transfer to a bowl. While beans are still warm (see note 1), toss with remaining ingredients and season with salt. Serve salad warm or at room temperature. (Gourmet, June 1998)

I actually used thyme in lieu of parsley or basil because I thought it would compliment the lemon better (and I had read in other recipes that thyme is also commonly served with cranberry beans). The recipe says to serve warm or at room temperature, but I actually really did not like it warm. Once it cooled off, I liked it much more. Plus, the longer the beans sit in the dressing, the tastier they become. In fact, I liked it best the day after making it.

In taste, the cranberry beans reminded me of white beans but larger. They are denser than I expected, but I like it that way. I think the salad would go really well with roast chicken. Last night I ate it as a side to some shrimp cooked with olive oil, a clove of garlic, and thyme and that was nice too.

Now I have a question for anyone out there who might know the answer. While researching the cranberry bean, most sources said to not cook the beans in salted water because the salt would toughen the skin. (fyi, salt draws out moisture). So why does this recipe add salt to the water? I went with it thinking that perhaps the bean’s surface can break easily when cooked so the salt here is to prevent that from happening for the salad’s sake. Or perhaps it is just a bad component in the recipe? Anyone know?

Okay, now back to the mystery of the red specks…I think they simply melt off in the water. Isn’t that weird? When the beans were finished cooking, they were all white sitting in pink water. I felt bad for the pretty, red specks--such an anticlimactic ending to a beautiful life.

1) Wondering why you should toss beans in their dressing why warm? At this point, their pores are open and will soak up the dressing better.

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Anonymous Kate said...

I never knew such a thing existed! Thanks for the new veggie and the recipe. And by the way, you take such pretty pictures of your food! I can assure you nothing I serve ever looks so nice.

6:32 AM  

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