Thursday, August 02, 2012

Fresh Cranberry Beans

It's always a pleasure to stop by the strawberry farm along Hwy 12 to buy some fresh-from-the-fields sweet, juicy, gorgeous strawberries. Now they also have a selection of veggies that they have grown right there in the fields by the Laguna. Recently they had a bag of fresh cranberry beans for sale. I've never cooked with fresh cranberry beans. In fact I've rarely cooked with fresh shelling beans of any kind, but I've been trying to add whole grains and legumes to my diet and this seemed like a great thing to add.

A quick surf on the Internet yielded a recipe for a salad made with the beans, herbs, cherry tomatoes, red onion, cucumber, and and olive oil and red wine vinegar dressing. The beans are cooked until tender at a simmer and you add things like celery tops and carrots (which get discarded) to give the beans more flavor as they cook.

I really liked the flavor combo when I made the salad as written, but it needed more vinegar since the beans, as beans often are, were bland. We have also cut back on the oil we use both in cooking and at the table, so I would reduce the olive oil by two-thirds. There was waaaay more oil than I like.

Shelling the beans was sort of relaxing. Sweetie helped me and we were sitting outside with the dog enjoying the summer day as we worked. They are really pretty beans. The pods are streaked with dark pink and the beans look like porcelain, with ivory background and dark pink streaks. When they cook they turn sort of gray so enjoy them while you shell them.

Some of the pods had started to dry out so I kept them intact and laid the pods out on the porch railing in full sun to dry completely. Now I have about 1/2 cup dried beans, too.

The bag of beans yielded about 3 1/2 cups total. I cooked 3 cups of beans and used 2 cups for the salad. Now I get to try them in another recipe, as long as it only needs 1 cup cooked beans. For now, here is the promised Cranberry Bean Salad with Cucumbers, Tomatoes and Herbs.

Cranberry Bean Salad
Insalata di Fagioli Borlotti
from La Tavola Marche
serves 4

2 cups fresh borlotti or cranberry beans
couple of handfuls of cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 medium red onion, sliced thinly
1 cucumber, peeled & sliced
fresh herbs of your choice, chopped: marjoram, oregano, Italian parsley or basil work well
4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive
salt pepper
vegetable scraps

In a pot with plenty of water, bring the beans to a boil with vegetable scraps: celery tops, dried out carrots, half an onion sitting in your fridge - toss it in! (The veggies give the beans a bit more flavor.)

Bring to boil then lower to simmer 20-30 minutes until the beans are tender.

Drain beans and discard the vegetables.

In a bowl combine the beans, tomatoes, onion, cucumber. Add in the herbs.

Combine the oil & vinegar then toss with the salad.

Season with salt & pepper.

Let stand 10-15 minutes to let the flavors come together. Recheck your seasonings (taste it) and adjust. Serve.

I would recommend increasing the vinegar by 1 tablespoon and decreasing the oil by two-thirds because the beans need that ooomph of vinegar and I don't like so much oil in my salads. Otherwise it worked perfectly...I went with fresh oregano, Italian parsley and basil for my herbs.


  1. Oooh! Lucky you! We tried growing them one year and only had about 2 cups, dried. We ended up putting them into a jar and just looking at them, they were so beautiful. :)

  2. Marian12:58 PM

    Looks fabulous! I'll have to check the farmer's market for interesting fresh beans. We often find black-eyed peas, but there may be others.

  3. I have tried EVERYTHING to get those lovely beans to keep their color. Every.thing. To no avail. They are pinky-gray, and that's that.


    They are tasty, though; I feel it's well past-time to expand my bean tastes beyond pinto, black, and navy... the salad looks divine.

  4. Anonymous1:39 PM

    The salad *does* look divine, and the pictures are especially delightful, too.


  5. David, They really are almost too beautiful to cook...almost.I think I'll try growing them next year and see what happens.

    Marian, This would probably taste great with black-eye peas, too.

    Tanita, Good to know that mine are not the only gray ones. The taste overcomes the color.

    Natasha, You are sweet! It's a great salad.