Launie and I are real suckers for a pretty ingredient. Especially if it’s one that we’ve never cooked with before. Launie’s been known to squeal a little when she finds one. It’s kind of endearing – and delicious, because she carries that enthusiasm all the way from the vegetable bin to the kitchen to the plate.
Our introduction to the many-monikered cranberry bean was no exception.
Earlier this fall Launie and I took a leisurely drive to nowhere in particular, something we hadn’t done for a long time. We stopped in at our favorite farm stand. I was on the hunt for some fresh-pressed apple cider to turn into hard cider and Launie was on the hunt for some beautiful ingredients of a less specific nature. While I was gathering a few armloads of gallon jugs and asking cider-making questions – “What blend of apples do you use?” “When was this pressed?” – I heard Launie exclaim from the produce bins. I know that sound well. She was happy and it was a good bet she had found something she both wanted to cook with and to photograph. It turned out that she had hit the actual jackpot, though, and also found something that she had never used before: French horticultural beans.
We made a note of the name, so we could do some research when we got home. It turns out that these heirloom beans go by many names. Emergo. Borlotti. Cranberry. Apparently here in Vermont and other parts of New England, they are often referred to as French horticultural beans. Whatever you call them, they’re beautiful. And, as it turns out, delicious – especially when you stew them with sage, flat-leaf parsley, onions and tomatoes.
Cranberry Beans with Sage
1 onion (red or white) quartered
1 cup of beans
1 cup of tomatoes, cherry and/or plum (washed and uncut)
¼ cup olive oil
½ cup of parsley (leave on stem)
3 stalks of sage leaves (leave on stem)
2 teaspoons crushed sea salt
Add all ingredients in a medium pot. Add enough water to cover ingredients (about 3 cups) and bring to a boil. Lower to medium-low heat and simmer, partly covered for 30-45 minutes minutes. Cook as long as 1 ½ hours if you’re using dried beans. You want to keep the beans submerged, so add more water in small batches as they cook, if needed. Taste and season with more salt, pepper and oil if needed.
When beans are cooked through, use a spider to remove the tomatoes, herbs and onions, and either serve the beans with the vegetables and herbs as a side dish, or blend together to use as a flavorful add-in for a soup.
(Photos by Launie Kettler)