It’s not fall yet, thank goodness. I’m not ready to give that up yet – despite the fact that I’m wearing jeans more often than bare legs and I’ve got my umbrella at the ready. It’s that weird between-seasons time and it makes me a little restless since I no longer have school days to help ground me. It’s weird how I haven’t been in school for years, but the beginning of September feels so much like school. That feeling just sticks, I guess.
Produce at the markets begin to change too. In mid August, these cranberry beans (aka borlotti beans) started appearing and should stick around for at least a few more weeks, I hope. They’re gorgeous, aren’t they? Their pods are stunning and I didn’t expect the beans themselves to be just as pretty. But they are.
This was my first time buying them fresh and I wasn’t sure what to do with them. Braising seemed like the simplest option, especially since I had some bacon and fresh herbs on hand to help with flavour. It was a good move – just don’t expect those pretty beans to keep their bright pink speckles once cooked.
Okay, they’re no longer gorgeous, but what they lack in the looks department they make up for in taste and texture. They reminded me of a dish of stewed beans that I used to order at a Greek restaurant in my hometown. I’d eat the beans with buttered bread and a glass of wine and be totally sated. This bean dish was similar – the beans were creamy and slightly nutty and what I would have given to have bread to sop up all the juices!
The beans are smokey from the bacon and the fresh herbs – the rosemary especially – makes a serious impact. A tip for next time: have bread handy! And greens to go alongside!
Though, beer and a sausage in a pinch works too.
braised cranberry beans with oregano & rosemary
The bacon/pancetta and the tomato are both optional here. Though I think a tablespoon of tomato paste or even ketchup would add a good bit of tomato flavour. Some recipes state that fresh cranberry beans are ready in 20 minutes – mine took upwards of 45 minutes – so check in at the 20 minute mark, as you don’t want mushy beans.
1 lb cranberry/borlotti beans in their pods
2-4 T olive oil
3 strips bacon or pancetta, diced (optional)
1 diced onion
6 large cloves garlic, minced
1 small tomato, seeds removed & diced (optional)
1 sprig fresh rosemary, stem discarded & leaves chopped
1 sprig fresh oregano, stem discarded
1/4 t – 1 t aleppo pepper or crushed red chili flakes (amounts depend on your own personal taste)
1/2 c chicken stock
1 1/2 c water
pinch of kosher salt & a good grind of black pepper
Shell your beans and set aside.
In a heavy pot, add in 2 tablespoons of olive oil and saute the bacon med-high heat until the bacon gets crisp. Add in the onion and saute for 5 minutes until wilted. Stir in the garlic along with the tomato, fresh herbs, and aleppo pepper. Add beans. Pour in additional olive oil if necessary to give the beans a good coating. Pour in water and chicken stock. Cover and bring to a boil for 5 minutes. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes to 45 or until beans are tender (not mushy) and most of the liquid has reduced. If I find the liquid is still plentiful, remove the lid and turn up the heat to a boil to help evaporate the excess. Taste and add in salt or pepper, if needed. Drizzle with a good, fruity olive oil if you want to up the richness. Serves 4.