I love it when fresh beans come into season since I spend the rest of the year laboring over simmering pots of dried ones. It's like this magical time when you can simply throw some beans into a pot of water, and in less time than it takes to contemplate eating your own arm, dinner is on the table. For once, you have an alternative to canned beans that doesn't take a lifetime to cook. With these enthusiasms I came home from my new local Chicago farmers' market with a bag of cranberry bean pods that contained the creamy treasures.
Thinking pasta as a good way to showcase the beans, I ended up with this recipe for Pasta with Cranberry Beans and Greens from Deborah Madison, which also uses in-season kale to round out the healthy factor, though any sturdy green such as collards or mustard greens would suit. The beans simmer with carrots and dried sage to give them a deep, round flavor, and the cooking liquid is used to make a sauce that clings tenaciously to the pasta. Meanwhile, the kale softens with onion and garlic. It's the sort of nutritious meal that has no business being so delicious.
- 1 pound cranberry beans in their pods (1 cup, shelled)
- 1 bay leaf
- 6 sage leaves or 1/2 teaspoon dried
- Olive oil
- 4 garlic cloves, sliced
- 1 medium carrot, finely diced
- 1 or 2 bunches of sturdy greens such as kale, collards, or mustard greens
- 1 medium-sized red onion, finely diced
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/2 pound penne or other short pasta
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
Remove the beans from their pods and place in a small sauce pan with a quart of water, bay leaf, half the sage, the carrot, 1 clove of the garlic, and a little olive oil. Bring to a boil and cook until the beans are creamy and tender, 20-40 minutes depending on size and age of the beans. Add more water if needed to keep the beans just a bit soupy, which will be a component of the sauce later. Season to taste.
Chop the greens and heat a second pan with some olive oil, then add the onion and cook gently until soft. Add the remaining 3 garlic cloves, the remaining sage, and a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes. After a couple minutes, add the greens along with a splash of bean cooking water or water from the tap, and cook until tender.
In the meantime, bring a large pot of salty water to boil and cook the pasta until al dente.