Friday, September 21, 2012

Shell Beans

It took me a while to actually buy the beautiful fresh shell beans that appear in the market throughout the summer. I read about how easy they are to work with and how delicious they are, how it's hard to go back to dried beans afterwards. And I was tempted, but really? Would I do all of that work for beans?

Yes I do and it's not really much work, especially if you do it with your kids or a friend. It feels good to work with food like this, to start with it in its unprocessed state. It gives me the illusion that I live in a better and healthier way than I actually do. And what I read is true - shell beans are remarkably easy to work with and are quite versatile too. You can use them however you would, well, beans.

Not sure what kind these are, although from the outside I thought they were cranberry beans. But mostly they were light green in color, not the white with red veins that I associate with cranberry beans. No matter, these were beautiful too. 

I like to braise them in just enough liquid to cover them and then eat them as a side vegetable. Or with bread as a main dish. Perhaps the most classic of seasonings for the braise is rosemary and garlic, and then finished with olive oil. You won't go wrong with that, but that feels wintery to me. On this late summer evening I imagined something different, something more summery. I had a crisp red pepper in the house and a fresh bunch of parsley, and so it was.

Sliced onions sweated in a heavy bottomed pot, a small clove of finely chopped garlic too, and some diced celery. I added two small anchovy fillets because it seemed like a noble thing to do. When everything was aromatic and enticing, I added a small glug of sherry vinegar, a bit of salt, and then enough water to just cover the beans. After they came to a boil, a bay leaf, some coarsely chopped sweet red bell pepper, reduce the heat and cover almost all the way to braise for 20 minutes. I don't know exactly how long until they're done because it depends on the temperature, the kind of pot, and the kind of beans you're using. I start checking at about 20 minutes. 

When they are almost as tender as I want them to be I uncover the pot and raise the heat again to reduce the liquid  bit. I finished the dish with a small glug of good olive oil, chopped parsley, and lemon zest. The peppers never got as pliable as I had hoped for, which I take as a sign of their absolute freshness, not my incompetence. You may see things differently and that's fine.

My daughters and I ate these beans with rice and they was nary a complaint. In fact, the younger one insisted on putting on her own parsley and lemon zest. What to drink with this dish? This is not a difficult problem, as i think it would be hard to offend this dish with wine.

I went with the 2007 Domaine de la Pépière Muscadet Granite de Clisson, $22, imported by Louis/Dressner. This is completely wrong of me because you have to drink Muscadet with seafood, preferably oysters. It's not allowed to go with beans or meat or anything like that. Seafood, that's it. One really should follow the rules, but I did not. But I had a half bottle remaining from the previous day and those rules are, of course, ridiculous. The wine is developing beautifully! It exceeded my expectations on both days. At first it was beautiful as a wine, with lemon and leesy richness and crystalline purity, long and fragrant on the finish. Just a detailed, balanced, and delicately articulated very fine wine whose fineness belies its power. And on the second day it becomes more recognizable as a Muscadet with briny notes emerging, and more of a leesy sense on the finish. This is excellent wine and although earlier in the week I said that I have no idea what will happen to the wines in my cellar, I'm betting on this one to be gorgeous at every point over the next 20 years.

1 comment:

LAVAL said...

Please have a look at this, unfortunately it's in french: