Thursday, July 12, 2007

Cranberry Bean Recipe - from the Italian Vacation

After filling the house with necessities we were eager to supplement our pantry to include some of the great produce we knew was growing in nearby farms. We had read through the document which came with the rental house and found a list of local farmer's markets. The soonest and closest weekly market was on Monday, in Marschiano.
It was a quick drive with only one little mishap when I turned into a farm entrance instead of making the next right turn. No harm though, we turned around and arrived in Marschiano finding it bustling with activity. We found parking as best we could (Is it legal to park at the top of a T-Junction in Italy? Others were doing it, so we did too!)
The market was actually mostly clothes and house wares. More of a swap meet than Farmer's market. But then we turned a corner and found the food. We first discovered a few catering trucks and they were all serving the same thing - roasted whole pig. They cut large slabs of the meat and served them as tortas on a bread roll or simply flat on a plate. There must be high demand for such a meal or there wouldn't have been three trucks!
Then, the produce. It was beautiful!
The apricots, peaches and nectarines were large and cheap. We loaded up. I was actually happy NOT to see pluots and other such newfangled breeds. No, thank you!
All the tomatoes practially glowed with ripeness. The Roma tomatoes were amazing. These were quite different from the ones in the U.S. These were quite long (4-6"), skinny (1.5" across) and pointy at the end. We had to have some of them.
We also purchased lovely tiny tender french green beans (haricot vert).
We were hoping for some fresh beans and I turned a corner and found them. They were cranberry beans which have a white and red swirly color on both the pod and bean. I grabbed a bunch of them in hopes of doing something special.
On our way out of the market we found a truck with meats and cheeses. The woman working there spoke English quite well and helped us pick a large cut of Romano cheese as well as a few sausages.
So, what did we do with the beans?

I shelled them right away. I couldn't keep my hands off them. They were so fresh and moist and plump. I loved popping them out of their pods.
Two days later we had them with dinner. I made a sausage and bean ragout (or stew), which was great, flavorful and chunky. The beans were the star of the dish.

Cranberry Bean Ragout

2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 ribs of celery, diced
2 cloves of garlic, sliced thinly
2 small mild Italian sausages, casings removed
1 lb fresh cranberry beans
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot, heat the oil in a dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions, celery, and carrots. Cook for a few minutes until the onion begins to soften. Add the garlic and the sausage. Break up the sausage into tiny bits as it browns. Continue to cook, breaking up the sausage until it is cooked thoroughly. If there is lots of oil in the pan, pour off the excess.
Add the beans, bay leaf and enough water (or even better, chicken stock!), to cover the beans by about 1/2".
Bring to a boil. Simmer over medium low heat until the beans are cooked completely (about 20-30 minutes). Add water if they seem too dry.
Add salt and pepper at the end, to taste. They should need quite a bit of salt (1-2 tsp).
Enjoy with a salad and some crusty bread.

1 comment:

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