Monday, April 11, 2011

Beans, Glorious, BEANS!

I can't believe I totally forgot to blog this recipe! I made this about a month ago when I was inundated with baseball, house guests and travel.

So, there's this woman and she swears by these beans. I've referred to her as "E" before, and she's my inspiration for trying new beans. I could refer to her as the bean lady since she's the one who turned me on to these heirloom beans. If you are a lover of beans, they will change your life.

For this recipe I used a variety of heirloom beans called scarlet runner beans. They are enormous, beautiful, meaty beans that definitely have what it takes to be their own main dish. And, that's just what I did. I wanted to experience these beans thoroughly since it was the first time I had used them in cooking. So, here's a simple but delicious bean dish. This meal is both South Beach Diet friendly and gluten free.

First things first when it comes to beans. I used dried beans that I purchased from Rancho Gordo beans in Napa, CA. Well, I didn't physically purchase them, a friend of mine was kind enough to hand deliver my order from Napa. Yes, I'm blessed, I know. Anyhow, back to the beans. When you use dried beans it's important to practice good bean preparation. First sort through your beans and pick out any bad beans or pebbles you might find. Second, rinse your beans thoroughly. Third, soak your beans in a bowl of water, making sure your beans are covered by about an inch of water at all times. Soak your beans for about 6 hours. I normally will start soaking in the morning and continue until mid-afternoon.

This is what the beans will look like once they are soaked. Notice the SIZE of these beans in comparison to my hand. Yea. This is no wimpy bean, I tell you.

For this recipe you will need:
One pound of dried scarlet runner beans
2T olive oil
1 large carrot, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 onion chopped
2c shitake mushrooms, sliced
4-6 slices of bacon, cut up (turkey or regular, I used regular)
goat cheese to garnish (optional)

Now that your beans are soaked you can move forward. First of all, don't drain the beans from the water they've been soaking in, you'll use that later.
OK, now that we have that covered, you'll want to take out a large, heavy bottom pot. I used my Le Creuset french oven. In your pot, heat the olive oil and then add your mirepoix (carrots, celery, onion) and cook for about five minutes or until the onions become translucent.

At this point you can add your beans (and the water they have been soaking in) to the pot, making sure the beans are still covered in about an inch of water. Bring to a boil for about five minutes and then reduce the heat to a simmer. And, when I say simmer here, it's barely a simmer. You'll want the heat to be as low as you can possibly get it and still have the occasional bubble.

Once you are 'barely bubbling' your beans, lightly salt them, cover your pot and let them cook. Return to check on the beans about every 20-30 minutes. Once the beans start to smell like, well, beans, then start checking them for doneness.

The beans will look like this when they are done. The pot liquor will have darkened and thickened. Be careful not to over salt the beans, it takes a while for the beans to absorb the salt.

Now, heat a separate saute pan coated with cooking spray. Add your bacon to the pan and cook.

Just before the bacon is done, add the shitake mushrooms and saute.

Once you the bacon and mushrooms are finished cooking you can slide them right into your french oven, or whatever pot you are cooking your beans in.

Give the pot a good stir and let cook together for a few minutes. Then you're done! Ladle a hearty portion into your bowl and top with a dollop of goat cheese. This will give the beans liquor a nice creaminess to it.

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