Ask and You Shall Receive: How to Prepare Cranberry Beans

Cranberry Beans from the Orange County Great Park Farmers Market
Cranberry Beans from the Orange County Great Park Farmers Market

On a recent trip to the Orange County Great Park Farmer’s Market, Evelyn and I stumbled upon a stall which had produced a great stack of beautiful, vibrant and completely fresh cranberry beans.  The 10:00 AM sun was bright and direct and shone the variegated beans in vivid glory.  I became too excited; I had seen cranberry beans in a few books and recently in Living Magazine, but to tell the truth, I’d never cooked a fresh shell bean in my life!  This opportunity was too good to pass up, and I descended upon this mottled pile of beans with precision and ferocity. In my bean naivety I was overtly concerned that the weight of my purchase (beans in the shell) would be cut in half after I shelled the beans at home.  Fortunately, the young man who was staffing the stall was kind enough to shell one bean for me so that I could gauge the weight of the beans sans shell.  It turns out that a generous 2 pounds of beans in the shell yield about 2.5 to 3 cups of beans, which is perfect for lunch or dinner, and a bargain too!  Beans in bag, I scuttled my inexpensive plunder home to begin a new food adventure.  Turning to my favorite resource of late, I went to my Canal House cookbook and lo and behold, under the “September” section (how perfect is that, I just love being in synch) was found a recipe for beautiful cranberry beans, simply prepared.  I recreated the recipe, and I must say that it is at once simple, satisfying and homey.  The addition of good olive oil at the end was just the sophistication these natural beauties needed.  I took pleasure knowing that these beans had been grown within my county, and that I was preparing them for my family on a Sunday.  I urge you to take to the next farmer’s market to scout out fresh shell beans of your own.  It is terribly fun to cook them, eat them, and share them.  There’s an added benefit, too.  A secret benefit only you need to know about… I’ll explain.  Picture the glory of shopping at a farmer’s market on your day off in the middle of the day, and being so excited about your whopping bean purchase.  You come home to a quite house, put on a favorite movie… pour yourself a glass of WINE… and sit in blessed solitude.  Bean-shelling, wine-drinking, movie-watching, food-making.  This is the best.  The process unbeatable, and the outcome unforgettable.  Enjoy the photos I snapped of the process, and if you haven’t tried the particular olive oil I use here, please do… it’s a buttery, fragrant delight (and a favorite of The Barefoot Contessa, too).  Have a look at the gallery below and keep on scrolling for the recipe. Bon Apetit!

Cranberry Beans in Olive Oil – Directions

Shell 2-3 pounds fresh cranberry beans, you should have about 3 cups shelled beans.  Put the beans into a heavy medium pot and cover with cold water by 1 inch.  Add 1 halved onion and 1 large branch fresh sage leaves.  Bring the beans just to a simmer over medium heat.  When they come to a simmer, add a generous pinch of salt and 2 tablespoons really good extra-virgin olive oil.  Reduce the heat to low and very gently simmer the beans until they are tender, 45-60 minutes.  Remove the pot from the heat.  Season the beans with a little more salt, if you like.  Use a slotted spoon to serve the beans.  Serve them in wide soup bowls, drizzled with plenty of olive oil and seasoned with cracked black pepper.  Serves 4.

Recipe from Canal House Cooks Every Day

Good eating!

– Jonathan Dye

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