When I saw these gorgeous beans (still in the shell) at the market, I just had to buy them. I had no idea what they were or what I was going to do with them, but they were too beautiful to pass by. Turns out, their flavor is just as pleasing: nutty, rich, creamy. They’re like eating a bowl of health.
“What are they?” you ask? At the store, they were labeled “Raspberry Beans,” but my subsequent research has shown that they are more commonly called “Cranberry Beans.” They are related to the Italian ‘borlotti’ bean. The best explanation of the origin and history of the Cranberry Bean can be found over at The Culinary Addict. He explains how the Cranberry Bean was first cultivated by the Aztecs and the Incas thousands of years ago. It’s believed to have been crossed with the white bean to create today’s larger, kidney-shaped Cranberry Bean. It was brought to Italy in the 1500’s and has thrived there ever since. Check out The Culinary Addict’s photos of the beans still in their shell.
Unfortunately, the beautiful marbled color does fade with cooking, but the flavor more than makes up for the lost colors. I decided to cook mine in a garlicky, low-fat broth. This would be great served with lamb shanks or osso bucco, but I’ll be honest. I ate mine without any accompaniment.
Cranberry Beans with Garlic and Leeks
2 cups shelled, fresh Cranberry Beans
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 large leek, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups, 99% fat-free chicken broth
1 Tbsp butter
1 tsp salt
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp lemon zest
1 Tbsp chives, chopped finely
1 clove garlic, minced
pepper to taste
1. Bring 6 cups of salted water to boil. Add beans and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat, drain, and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking. Set aside.
2. Heat olive oil in heavy-bottom medium sauce pan. Add leeks and sautée gently until starting to soften, about 2 minutes. Add garlic and sautée for 1 minute. Add cooked beans and stir to coat. Add broth, butter and salt and bring to a gentle simmer. Add bay leaf and let cook uncovered for 20 minutes, stirring as needed. Add additional chicken stock to keep beans moist, if necessary.
3. While beans are cooking, mix grated lemon zest, chives and minced garlic in a small bowl. Add this mixture to the beans near the very end of the cooking time. Remove bay leaf, add fresh ground pepper to taste and enjoy.