Sunday, August 22, 2010

Rainy Sunday Dish - Shell Beans, Tomatoes and Pasta

One of my favorite things about Nashua in the summer is the Farmer's Market every Sunday on Main Street. Its a small market, with between 7-10 stands each week. I love the fresh fruits and vegetables, and always come across something new I'd never had before. This morning was no exception. The first farm stand I stopped at had interesting looking multi-colored beans. I asked what they were and was told that they are called Shell Beans, and are similar to edamame and lima beans. I love both, so I bought a bag. At the next stand I saw similar beans, but they were bigger and mostly dark pink, instead of multi-colored. I asked the farm owner, who is always a great source of produce information and cooking tips, and he told me that his beans are the same type I'd bought, his were just fresher (picked that morning) than the others (at least a few days old he guessed). I decided to buy his also and see if there was a taste difference. Here's what he told me about Shell Beans: they're also called Cranberry Beans (because of their color) and can be eaten raw, steamed, or added to soups and chilies. You can preserve the beans by shelling them and drying them (until hard like you find in the store) or by shelling them and freezing them.

I left the farmer's market with two bags of shell beans, some fresh peaches, a bunch of beets, and my favorite little cherry tomatoes (Candy Orange variety):

When I got home I inspected my shell beans:

The beans on the right are the first ones I bought, and you can see that the beans on the left look a lot nicer and fresher. Once shelled, they look about the same, except the beans on the left are bigger:

I decided to make a variation of a recipe I found online from The New York Times. My mom visited yesterday and brought lots of great tomatoes she bought at a Corn and Tomato festival in our hometown, but some of them were so large that they split. I wanted to use them today so they didn’t go bad, and they fit in perfectly with my Shell Beans, Tomato and Pasta Dish.

Side Note: Wonder why tomatoes get those cracks at the top? It happens when there is a lot of rain in a short period of time and the tomatoes grow too fast, so the skin cracks. Kind of like stretch marks for tomatoes!

Shell Beans
1 Bay Leaf
3 cloves garlic, minced
Parmesan Cheese rind and fresh Parmesan Cheese
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper

Simmer Beans
In a large skillet, add the following:
-Shelled Shell Beans (haha)
-Bay Leaf
-Thyme and Rosemary, to taste (fresh sprigs are best, or use dried herbs)
-Piece of Parmesan Cheese rind
-1-2 cloves garlic, minced
-Sprinkle of Salt

Cover the beans with water. Bring to a boil, then turn heat to low and cover. Simmer about 40 minutes (until beans are tender).

Tomato Sauce
Bring a pot of water to a boil. Put tomatoes in boiling water for 30 seconds. Remove from water and put in a bowl of ice water for 30 seconds. Remove tomatoes from ice water.

Core and peel the tomatoes. Cut the tomatoes into sections. You’ll be able to pick up the sections and remove the seeds (hold over a sink or the trash) – the seeds will basically fall out since you blanched the tomatoes in the boiling water. Tear the tomatoes into small pieces and set aside in a bowl. This will get messy!

In a large pot, add enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Heat on medium, then add 1 clove of garlic, minced. Sauté garlic until lightly browned, about 2-3 minutes. Add the tomatoes, basil (again fresh basil is best, but dried basil works too) and a sprinkle of sugar (to offset the acidity of the tomatoes). My dad always taught me to add a carrot to any tomato-based sauce while you cook it, because the carrot absorbs a lot of the acidity. I didn’t have large carrots, so instead I used 2 baby carrots.

Stir the sauce frequently until the tomatoes have cooked down to a thick sauce. This will take about 15-20 minutes.

Start your pasta when there is less than 10 minutes left on the sauce. I think this recipe would be best with shells, ziti, or spirals, but when I looked in my cupboard the only whole wheat pasta I had was spaghetti, so I used that.

At this point your beans should be close to done. When they are, drain in a colander over a bowl (to save the bean broth). They don’t look quite as pretty after being cooked. Instead of being dark pink and purple, they’re more of a grayish-brown:

Stir in about ¼ cup bean broth into the tomato sauce, then add beans. I decided to add some of the Candy Orange tomatoes to give some more color and sweetness to the dish.

Drain pasta, add tomato and bean sauce, and grate some Parmesan cheese on top.

This dish was good for a cold, rainy night. I’m glad I added the Candy Orange tomatoes, because the sweetness offset the garlic and seasonings nicely.

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