October’s Third Thursday: Stewed Beans – Not as Dull as it Sounds October 20, 2011Posted by Toy Lady in Cooking, Cooking Challenge, Third Thursday.
Welcome to October’s Third Thursday!
One of my goals for this monthly Third Thursday feature is to challenge myself to try new things and, hopefully, to encourage my tens of readers to do the same. A challenge can come in many different forms, you know – it may be doing something you’ve never done before, or doing it in a new way, or eating something you’ve never tasted – everyone’s different, and we’re all challenged by something different, you know?
You all know that in recent months, we’ve developed quite a fondness for dried beans. Baked beans, bean soup, beans & greens, chili – they’re cheap, they’re healthy, filling and, most especially, tasty.
However, I’ve never once had fresh beans. I don’t mean green beans – I mean beans that are normally dried but just haven’t been. Not-yet-dried, still moist beans.
So when I saw directions for cooking fresh borlotti beans on Kopiaste – a Greek cooking blog that I subscribe to – I bookmarked it. I figured that, if worst came to worst, (you know me) I’d plant some borlotti beans in the garden next year.
Fortunately, it didn’t come to that.
My last trip to the market, one of the farmers had baskets and baskets of fresh beans. I asked him what kind they were (I had no idea!), and he said they were pinto beans. BUT they looked just the borlotti beans on Ivy’s blog. And I figured that, since Ivy wasn’t completely sure what her barbounofassoula actually were in English, well, pinto beans were just as good a match as cranberry beans.
I had the option of shelled or unshelled – I spent the extra buck and bought the beans already shelled. On market day, I have enough to do with all the other vegetables I drag home – the least thing I had time for was to spend an hour shelling beans!
And so, we sauteed our chopped garlic and onions, then added the borlotti/pinto beans along with the last of the garden tomatoes, some tomato paste (I used the stick blender to blend the tomatoes and the paste, along with a bit of homemade vegetable juice to punch up the flavor), some salt and pepper, and enough vegetable stock mixed with water to cover the beans by an inch or so.
I know, that just breaks the rules, doesn’t it? You’re not supposed to cook beans with acids like tomatoes, and you’re not supposed to cook them with salt.
We let it simmer (after bringing it to a good hearty boil first) for an hour or so, covered, until the beans were nicely tender.
Then, since one thing I’d forgotten at the market was scallions, we minced a mess of parsley and chives (scallions, chives, whatever, right?) and tossed that in with the cooked beans.
And, because of the way our schedules run, we then packed everything into a container until later in the week. Then we reheated, cooked some rice, and crumbled some really good feta cheese over everything.
The beans alone – they were fine. They were significantly better after sitting for a couple of days, but, of course, we expected that. Did they need the rice? No. But you know what really REALLY made the dish? The feta cheese. It was actually good French feta that I’d picked up at the cheese stall at the market – not that supermarket stuff. It brought a punch of briny, pungent creaminess to the creamy, mellow beans, and, just, wow.
So here’s the bottom line – fresh beans are cool. But I’m pretty sure this dish would be (almost) as good using soaked dried beans.
I guess we’ll have to try it and find out. And maybe plant some beans in the garden next year!
If you’d like to play along, leave a comment with a link to (or a description of) your Third Thursday project – tell us what you’re up to! For loose (really loose!) guidelines, or if you want to check out some past Thursdays, they’re right here!