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Fresh Shell Beans


Katie Meadow
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I look forward all year to this small window in late summer/early fall when fresh shell beans are available. I'm thinking cannellini, cranberry bean varieties, butter beans or limas, flageolet, etc., not spring beans like favas. I cook dried beans the rest of the year, but fresh shell beans seem exotic to me.

My favorite way to cook fresh cranberry or borlotti beans is to bake them with half an onion, a few sprigs of thyme, a coupla garlic cloves and one or two little dry red chiles. I add water to cover and a very generous amount of olive oil, then cover the pot tightly and bake for an hour or a bit more. I would love to hear what other people like to do with fresh beans.

This morning I scored some lovely fresh butter beans. I didn't grow up with lima beans of any kind, so...any ideas? I happen to have some okra on hand and plenty of nice tomatoes. No corn, though. I also have some frozen ham broth with shredded ham from a shank. I'm sure I could come up with something succotash-like, but what are your favorite ways to eat butter beans?

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Fresh butterbeans are a real treat, any way you cook 'em. Frozen shoepeg corn will work just fine for your succotash, though they'll taste mighty fine braised in ham stock, too. Or try braising in water with a little onion & garlic until tender, then make a medium roux (color of peanut butter) on the side and stir the roux into the simmering beans and cook until the liquid is thickened: delicious. Roux-beans are the epitome of cajun home cooking, along with petits pois in a roux. Or pretty much anything you can think of, in a roux!

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My favorite way to cook fresh cranberry or borlotti beans is to bake them with half an onion, a few sprigs of thyme, a coupla garlic cloves and one or two little dry red chiles. I add water to cover and a very generous amount of olive oil, then cover the pot tightly and bake for an hour or a bit more.

Katie, that's almost exactly what I do, less the chiles but with a few peppercorns to fish out later, and usually with a bay or sage leaf. This is a place where a nice glug of quality olive oil works wonders.

Chris Amirault

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Exactly, Chris: a nice glug--meaning more than you might think.

As for my butter beans, I cooked them all initially the simplest way possible, in very light stock to cover, with a little onion, salted, til done. Then I divided them in half. The first half I sauteed with onion and garlic and poured over fresh sliced tomatoes (okra on the side.) The second half we had the following night with nothin' but salt and sweet butter and a garnish of roasted green chiles. I can't really think of a way they wouldn't be yummy. Next time a roux, perhaps!

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I got some fresh flageolet beans at the Farmer's Market today and have never cooked with the fresh version before. I assume that the fresh variety requires no soaking but does anyone know about how long they need to simmer? I assume about the same as soaked dried or maybe a little bit less. I was thinking of making a bean chowder with them. Normally my white bean soups involve pureeing the beans to create a creamy finish but I wondered if this might be wasting the value of the freshness factor. Would it make more sense to keep them whole?

I'm making chicken stock to braise them in but would certainly appreciate any ideas for how to take advantage of this rarely available fresh bean.

Kate

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Kate, I would be more inclined to leave them whole; they are so lovely and delicate. After simmering/braising I might saute a little onion and garlic, then throw in some flavorful chopped tomato and fresh herbs like rosemary, tarragon or thyme, then throw in the beans for a final simmer and serve as a side either hot or warm. Or I might bake them in stock and oil as I do above with cranberry beans. My mother always liked flageolet dressed with a vinaigrette and served room temp alongside olives, cured meats or marinated vegetables, pickles and whatnot. Very happy on a tuna nicoise platter.

Onrushpam, that recipe for butterbeans sounds sinfully good--in a heartstopping kind of way. If my butterbean guy still has 'em next week I am tempted to try it.

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Onrushpam, that recipe for butterbeans sounds sinfully good--in a heartstopping kind of way. If my butterbean guy still has 'em next week I am tempted to try it.

Ooooh, they were SOOOO good! I came straight home and Googled up the recipe. When I read it, I told my husband, "Well, I won't be making these often! Maybe once a year when company is coming?" :smile:

Our little local market had fresh shelled butterbeans for $2 a quart this morning! (And, fresh shelled white acre peas for $4 a quart). I snagged a quart of each and will blanch/freeze them tonight. They are better cooked fresh, but I have other cooking projects on the weekend agenda. I may go back for more tomorrow... it depends on how much freezer space I have left after I deal with the seafood gumbo I'm making from the shellfish stock I made a few weeks ago.

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Kate, I would be more inclined to leave them whole; they are so lovely and delicate. After simmering/braising I might saute a little onion and garlic, then throw in some flavorful chopped tomato and fresh herbs like rosemary, tarragon or thyme, then throw in the beans for a final simmer and serve as a side either hot or warm. Or I might bake them in stock and oil as I do above with cranberry beans. My mother always liked flageolet dressed with a vinaigrette and served room temp alongside olives, cured meats or marinated vegetables, pickles and whatnot. Very happy on a tuna nicoise platter.

Thanks for the feedback! I refrigerated the beans (hand-shelled by the vendor) and made the chicken stock which is a strong stock along the lines of the brodo in Lynn Rosetto Kasper's "The Splendid Table". Tonight the beans will make an appearance, whole, as a side to rack of lamb with a herby mustard breadcrumb crust. I am going to cook them in the broth (testing for doneness at 30 minutes) and adding some onion and tomato confit. My SO loves bean soup and he is adamant that I make some. The rest of the beans will be in an un-pureed version of my traditional white bean chowder which relies heavily on ham hocks and the great broth for flavor. Interestingly, when questioned, I learned that my SO (who claims to love my bean soup) would prefer that the beans NOT be pureed as he likes to "bite" into the beans. I've been making pureed white bean chowder for years and it is only now that I find out that the extra step of pureeing is NOT appreciated? I'll try the beans whole this time because they are fresh but I am secretly hoping that he will "get" why I have been pureeing the beans for so many years.

Kate

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I bought some fresh shell beans at the market yesterday. None of the clerks knew what they were. They were white and red striped and the produce manager said they were Fava beans.

I bought them because I saw this thread on egullet. I've not cooked fresh beans like these.

I cooked them per the recipe in Joy of Cooking (boiled in a bit of water with olive oil, salt, garlic clove).

The red stripes boiled off and the beans came out white-ish. They tasted like... well... beans.

Kind of underwhelming.

A few questions:

Were these really fava beans?

Are the red stripes supposed to come off? (they looked really cool)

If they are fava beans, is September the wrong season for them?

Thanks!!

Gary

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I'm not a bean expert, but they sound like cranberry beans or some variety thereof. Favas are green, flattish and in a green pod--and are more likely to be a spring-time bean. If boiling didn't bring out the flavor and you still have some left, you could add them to a vegetable soup and let them cook a bit longer so they absorb more flavors. Or you could saute them further in tomato, garlic, herbs etc. And yes, in my experience most colorful or speckled beans seem to lose their party outfits during cooking.

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Yeah, sounds like cranberry beans to me. I've been on kind of a cranberry bean binge of late. The farmers market has San Marzano tomatoes for like a buck a pound and cranberry beans for two (and this is in New York, people! I'm used to over-paying for everything!) so I've been braising the beans in onion, garlic, red pepper flakes, and the chopped tomatoes--water to cover till soft, plenty of olive oil at the get-go. Don't skimp on the salt. Excellent, really really good with bread, either on top or in a scoop-up-type situation. The other night I realized I was out of red pepper flakes and used some pimenton and that was tasty too. Hard to wrong, really.

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I buy cranberry beans, shell and rince them, dice pancetta, brown in olive oil, drain the oil but keep pan caramels, add fresh diced tomatoes, garlic, fresh thym, bay leaf, beans and a bit of water and let simmer for 20 mts covered until the last 5. Very flavorful and great summer dish.

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