Cranberry Beans

Maybe I’m just a food nerd, but I don’t think there’s much in this world more attractive than cranberry beans.  Cindy in her prime was impressive no doubt (and still is if you were dumb enough to watch one of her recent infomercials), but I still think cranberry beans are pretty f’n gorgeous. 

Although they won’t be in season for quite a while, and most of you won’t be seeing these at your local market, the fresh-shelled bean gives me warm fuzzies.  Growing up in the South, shelling fresh beans with my mom in late summer was quite the memorable bonding experience.  I couldn’t even scramble an egg back in my youth, so this was really about as cooking-involved as I got back in the day.  But mama’s creamed corn with some fresh “butta” beans or crowder peas was just about my favorite thing at that age (other than punishing fried scallops at Red Lobster).

The last time I had them was with my BFF Roy as part of our yuppie feast.  They came out to be absolutely perfect.  Here’s how I made them…

  1. Shell a bunch of beans until you have several cups of beans
  2. Put them in a pot and cover with water
  3. Boil for about an hour until nice and tender

Next, you bring those beans to life…

Ingredients:

  • 3 ounces high-quality dry salami, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • Several sprigs of thyme (optional)
  • 2 fresh bay leaves (optional)
  • 6T of butter
  • Several cups of chicken stock or water (a splash of white wine is very nice too)
  • Salt and cayenne to taste

 Directions:

  1. In 2T of butter, brown the salami in the bottom of a wide-bottomed pan.
  2. Add onions, carrots, and celery and sweat on low heat for 20-30 minutes until very soft and sweet (obviously you can be doing this while the beans are cooking). 
  3. Drain the beans and add to the pot… Stir, scraping the bottom.
  4. Add your liquid – Half water and half chicken stock with a splash of white wine would be ideal, but there’s enough flavor in the salami that just plain water is fine.  Make sure the beans are fully covered with liquid.
  5. Add your optional herbs at this time.
  6. Bring to a boil and simmer until the flavors are well concentrated and you’re liking the taste.  Reduce a little bit if necessary. 
  7. Finish by stirring in the remaining 4T of butter and season with salt and cayenne to taste.  Salami is very salty so it shouldn’t require much. 
  8. Remove the herbs and serve.  Makes an amazing soup-like concoction that can make a great side dish or even function as a pretty good main course. 

  To make it more of a functional meal, garnish the soup, or any soup for that matter while you’re at it, with the famous 180 Homemade Cheez-it.