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"A gourmet who thinks of calories is like a tart who looks at her watch." - James Beard


Saturday, September 15, 2012

Fresh Cranberry Beans (with Braised Lamb)

When I was younger, I was a very picky eater. I feel like I've made huge strides in this area, but there are still a few things I can't bear to eat. Raw tomatoes are one, red peppers are another.  And beans.  I love fresh green and yellow beans and I can eat chickpeas (garbanzo beans) in a lot of preparations, but when it comes to those healthy but mushy white, black, kidney and pinto beans, I really struggle.  The texture is the biggest issue but there's not really a great flavour there to make up for it.  I know beans are close to perfect nutritionally and so cheap and versatile, so I keep trying to like them. This recipe gets close.  I ate almost all my beans.  My husband ate his, the rest of mine and the rest of the ones in the pot.  So if you like beans, you'll love these.  If you hate them, give it a try and it just might convert you. 

As mentioned the other day, I found these beautiful fresh beans at the market.  The colour of the shell is gorgeous.  The vendor who grew them said they were Romano beans, but when I looked online it seemed more likely they're cranberry beans (or borlotti or shell beans).  Whatever they're called, they're pretty photogenic!

Shelling beans (and peas) is something I find very relaxing. I sat out in the sun and slipped the beans from their shell slowly in the fresh air.

I ended up with just under the two cups needed for this recipe.  The recipe calls for cooked beans so I decided to cook these the day before (along with the lamb) and then follow the recipe from there.

I threw part of an onion, a sprig of rosemary and a bay leaf in with the beans and covered them with water and simmered for about 15 minutes, then added a teaspoon of salt and simmered 15 minutes more.  

Sadly, the cooked beans lost their beautiful colour and turned a little grey-ish.  

So when I was ready to make the meal, I pulled out the cooked beans, chicken stock, celery, carrots, onions, garlic, thyme and a bay leaf.

Finely chop the carrots, celery, onion and garlic. I used my handy little food processor.  Sauté the veggies until slightly softened.

Throw in the cooked (or canned, rinsed) beans, 2 cups chicken stock and the thyme and bay leaf.

Simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add some more chicken stock if it gets dry.

Stir in the gremolata, about half a cup (recipe coming up next) with the beans and serve alongside the braised lamb

The gremolata adds a fresh bright taste. There's certainly lots of flavour. The texture is still pretty bean-like but they were very good overall.

Try this meal, it's terrific!

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