End of Summer Lament and Ode to a Cranberry Bean

| September 24, 2007 | 3 Comments
  • 3 Comments

It’s that time of year again, the days start to get shorter, the sun no longer wakes me up before my alarm clock (now I actually have to start setting my alarm clock), and I must begin to convince myself that summer is on the way out. In fact, there is a distinct chill in the air, if only to remind me. Sigh. The weather is still nice. But the nice man at Frog Hollow told me we’d be lucky to have even another week of peaches (as I quickly add more to my shopping bag). I can’t even find corn anymore. Cherries are sooooo last season. Strawberries are few and far between and I’ve heard they are not long for these parts. And tomatoes. Oh tomatoes. They are still here, and delicious as ever, but I know my time with them is limited. I am buying them almost on a daily basis now. They are part of nearly every meal I prepare.

But even though I am lamenting summer’s dwindling bounty, a whole new crop of food is peaking and autumn treats are appearing. One of my favorites has appeared recently, my late-summer love The Cranberry Bean.

Those of us who know them tend to horde them. I see the occasional stuffed plastic bag with the tell-tale mottled pinky-red pods, firmly grasped in hand. Standing at the bin, I load up my bag as full as possible (knowing full well I’m going to have to lug it on Muni all the way home). But cranberry beans have such a limited season, it’s worth it to buy all that you can. They are not only the most brilliant delicious creamy wonderful fresh legume on the planet (in my oh-so-humble opinion) but they freeze extremely well.

I really shouldn’t be telling you all of this.

But really they are so good that you should know about them. Creamy, plump, and full of fresh bean flavor.

And there are all kinds of ways to use them: simply boiled and dressed as Cucina Testa Rossa describes in her previous post from last September, tossed with pasta, drizzled with vinaigrette in a salad, or my hands-down favorite, a big steaming bowl of Pasta e Fagioli. This hearty bean, pasta, and vegetable soup is the perfect antidote to a rainy end-of-summer night. It almost makes you happy that winter is right around the corner.

Pasta e Fagioli

soup

2 slices thick-cut smoked bacon (like applewood smoked) or pancetta, chopped
Olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 stalks celery, diced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup diced fresh tomatoes, peeled and seeded or 1 (regular size) can finely chopped tomatoes
About 4-6 cups chicken broth, preferably homemade
About 1 1/2 cups fresh cranberry beans, removed from pods (this equals approximately 1 lb unshelled beans in their pod)
Parmesan rind (Note: if you buy a chunk of fresh Parmesan, just cut off the rind and throw it into the soup while it’s cooking)
About 1 cup small soup pasta, like ditalini or macaroni

To garnish
Fresh chopped basil
Grated Parmesan cheese

Cook the bacon in a stock pot until crisp, then remove to a plate and set aside. You can pour out the grease, but leave at least 1-2 tablespoons. Add olive oil if needed, then saute the onions, carrots, and celery until just tender. Season with salt and pepper. Add the tomatoes, broth, cranberry beans, and the Parmesan rind, if using. Simmer until the beans are tender, about an hour (give or take, it really depends on the freshness of your beans; start tasting them after about 45 minutes; you want them creamy but not mushy) . Add the pasta and cook just until al dente, about 7 minutes. Add the reserved bacon back to the soup. Serve with grated Parmesan and fresh basil.

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Category: Bay Area Bites Food + Drink, recipes

About the Author ()

Kim Laidlaw is a cookbook author, editor, food writer, producer, project manager, and baker who has been in the kitchen covered in flour since she was big enough to stir the biscuit dough. She has over 16 years of experience in book and online publishing, and a lifetime of experience in the kitchen. Her first cookbook, Home Baked Comfort, was published in 2011; her second cookbook, Baby & Toddler On the Go, was published in April 2013; and her third cookbook, Williams-Sonoma Dessert of the Day, was published in October 2013. She was the first blogger on KQED’s Bay Area Bites blog, which launched in 2005, and previously worked as a professional baker at La Farine French Bakery in Oakland, CA. She lives in San Francisco with her husband and their toddler, whom she cooks for everyday. Find out more at http://www.kimlaidlaw.com.
  • cucina testa rossa

    aren’t they gorgeous?!

  • Tea

    What a lovely post (and thanks for letting me in on the secret!).

  • http://none Becky

    I found your post on these speckled cranberry beans through a google search. I am have been trying to find some source for these beans. Can you tell me where you purchased your seeds for these beans? And if you have a source of this bean that you buy in bulk? We really like these beans, and I am not finding them.
    Becky