Cranberry Beans

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My first experience with cranberry beans was a failed attempt at a soup (see here) where dried cranberry beans were cooked for an inappropriate amount of time, leading to a texture so unpleasantly undercooked it was like eating unpopped popcorn kernels. The years have passed, but the scars took a while to heal: I wasn’t too eager to cook cranberry beans again. Not even fresh ones. That is until I saw a beautiful mound of them at the farmer’s market and, knowing I was cooking a dinner for Stella two weeks ago, I said: “What the ‘ell!” (I had a British accent.) I bought the beautiful bag of beans you see above.

Cranberry beans are so, so, pretty, you just want to stare at them and not cook them for hours. That’s what I did, entering a catatonic state so severe that when Stella came over she had to smack me hard across the face to get me cooking.

“Sorry, Stella!”

But look at the open pod in my hand:

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Can you believe that comes from nature?

I spent a pleasant 20 minutes shelling all the beans into this bowl and, again, found myself mesmerized by their beauty:

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Stella smacked me again.

“I’m sorry, Stella!” I screamed.

The bean preparation I chose came from one of my desert island cookbooks: Sunday Suppers at Lucques. The recipe is for “Haricots Verts and Fresh Shell Bean Ragout” but I adapted it to leave out the haricots verts, seeking to feature the cranberry beans alone.

The process is easy easy easy and very rewarding. Watch how easy:

In a pot, heat 2 Tbs olive oil and saute 1/4 cup diced onion, 1 tsp minced garlic, 1 tsp thyme leaves (approximately: you can play around with the amounts.) When the onions are translucent (5 minutes), add the shelled beans and cook a few minutes, coating in the oil. Now add water to cover by 2 inches and a bit of salt (enough to season the water); simmer 10 to 15 minutes until the beans are just tender. You can tell by tasting. Here’s what mine looked like when they were ready:

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Remove from the heat and cool the beans in their liquid. When cool, drain the beans and save the liquid (I just used a spider tool to get the beans out, leaving the liquid where it was.)

Now, in a saute pan you heat some more olive oil and add sliced shallot (or onion, if that’s what you have) and some thyme; season with salt and pepper and cook a minute or two and then add the cooked beans. Stir around gently, don’t crush the beans; now add 1/2 cup (or more) shell bean liquid to moisten.

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Taste for seasoning, cook a few more minutes, until it’s hot. Add some basil and parsley and that’s it. Look how scrumptious:

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These beans are unlike any beans you’ve ever had; their freshness gives them a vibrancy no canned bean or dried bean can replicate. And this preparation provides the beans with a gentle coating that enhances and doesn’t cloak their natural flavor.

Stella agreed: “These are yummy.”

Now let’s let the B52s play us out with their song “Butter Beans” which works nicely, only change the word “butter” to “cranberry” in your head. It makes more sense that way:

25 comments

  1. Great article, except for the Palin bashing. But I’ll get over it. I totally want to cook up some cranberry beans now. Thanks!

  2. Adam, I love your blog and your writing, but – I have no great love for Sarah Palin nor any aversion to the dirtiest of dirty jokes, but that wedding night thing starts getting into crude sexism territory.

  3. Well the beans were pretty before you cooked them. After they were cooked they look… ugly!

    I was confused after reading the comments, I think I missed something here… I hate it when that happens.

  4. You caved! I saw the original words on Bloglines and arrive to find you caved. Wuss.

    Fresh mature beans have an extra flavor component that you never find in dried ones. Canellini are fabulous too.

  5. This recipe does look delicious – sort of like a much fancier version of the bodega beans that, I believe, were the recipe that got me to this site!

    It’s a shame they lose their gorgeous markings after cooking, but you can keep the shells around for a bit, I suppose.

  6. I made this last weekend! I used the haricots vert as well, though. It was great. The cranberry beans did turn a little…gray, after cooking and sitting in the cooking liquid in the fridge overnight. They tasted wonderful, though. The recipe was in the “great chefs cook vegan” cookbook I got (I’m not vegan, or even vegetarian, but the recipes look really tasty) and made Suzanne Goin’s whole menu for dinner one night. Liked it so much I went out and bought her cookbook, too. I have way too many cookbooks, by the way. If that is even possible.

  7. My grocery store has cranberry beans in stock right now, I bought a bunch, cooked them and froze them for later. I used some of them recently to make Suzanne Goin’s pappardelle with shell beans and wild mushrooms.

  8. I am so shocked to see those kind of beans in America. I had no idea they were called cranberry beans. We have them in Turkey and it’s a very popular dish to eat in the summer time. We cook it with olive oil and it’s actually quite plain but the beans themselves taste so good that you don’t really need anything. It’s either eaten cold or room temperature. And it’s one of my favorite olive oil dishes (that’s what we call them in Turkish). Yours look good as well. If you are interested I can send you the Turkish recipe sometime.

    Cheers.

  9. I am so shocked to see those kind of beans in America. I had no idea they were called cranberry beans. We have them in Turkey and it’s a very popular dish to eat in the summer time. We cook it with olive oil and it’s actually quite plain but the beans themselves taste so good that you don’t really need anything. It’s either eaten cold or room temperature. And it’s one of my favorite olive oil dishes (that’s what we call them in Turkish). Yours look good as well. If you are interested I can send you the Turkish recipe sometime.

    Cheers.

  10. Ahh I really want to make this for supper tonight but I don’t know how many beans I need. What did the recipe call for?

    Thanks!

  11. After seeing this post a few days ago, I bought some cranberry beans at my farmer’s market this week. (I had wanted to try them for a long time, and your post gave me added incentive). I was going to follow your exact recipe, but while going into the fridge, I found two ears of sweet corn that needed to be used. After sauteing the shallot for a few minutes, I added the corn which I had cut off the cobs, and some salt. Then I proceeded as you said, garnishing with some parsely and chives, which I had gotten in my CSA box this week. I had it over some leftover brown rice, and the whole thing was absolutely delicious! Thanks for the inspiration!

  12. Thank you for this site…I bought some cranberry beans today at the farmers market in NYC because they were so beautiful. I didn’t know how to pick them so got 1/2 green ones! So I am cooking them now and your photos helped sooooooo much. They started to turn color and I didnt’ know if they were any good! Thanks to your photos I know they are fine and they taste great!

    Susanne

  13. Thank you for this site…I bought some cranberry beans today at the farmers market in NYC because they were so beautiful. I didn’t know how to pick them so got 1/2 green ones! So I am cooking them now and your photos helped sooooooo much. They started to turn color and I didnt’ know if they were any good! Thanks to your photos I know they are fine and they taste great!

    Susanne

  14. This was deeeelish! I used a different breed of shelling bean (the name escapes me) and added extra garlic, fresh corn, and sherry to the second stage. I served it sprinkled with some freshly grated parmesan and garlic bread, and a glass of rose’. Very simple and delicious!