The cranberry bean is the definitive creamy, buttery, savory bean. Its texture is unparalleled. I cannot buy enough of these to satisfy my affection. This method for cooking fresh cranberry beans came from Toby Aarons, whom I worked with at the Union Square farmers’ market (for Tim Stark at Eckerton Hill Farms) the same summer I went to France and just before Diner. She got this recipe from Marcella Hazan (who got it from her husband’s housekeeper) and showed me just how she does it. I believe this is the best preparation for beans on record.
- 2 cups fresh shelled cranberry beans
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus 3 tablespoons and as needed
- 12 cloves garlic, 6 halved lengthwise and 6 thinly sliced
- 1 bunch fresh sage
- kosher salt
- 4 mixed peppers, such as red bell, cubanelle, mild chile and/or Italian fryer
- 1 bunch mustard greens, tough stems and spines removed
- coarse sea salt
- Put the cranberry beans in a pot and add just enough water to cover. Over high heat, bring the beans up to a boil, skimming off any white foam that that rises to the surface, then turn down to a simmer. Stir in 1/4 cup of the olive oil, the halved garlic, and 12 sage leaves. Check the beans for doneness after 20 minutes; they will probably take about 30 minutes to cook. When the beans are tender, season with kosher salt and let cool in the cooking liquid.
- Core and seed the peppers. Cut them in half lengthwise, then into 1/2-inch strips. In a cast-iron skillet over high heat, heat the 3 three tablespoons olive oil. Working in batches if necessary, add the peppers and spread in a single layer. Season the peppers with salt and cook them until they brown, and even char, 8 to 10 minutes, turning once with tongs. Add additional oil to the pan if it starts to get too dry. Continue on this way until all of the peppers are cooked, transferring them to a heatproof bowl as they are finished.
- Meanwhile, pour the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil into a small frying pan over medium heat. Add the sliced garlic and sauté until the garlic starts to sizzle and turn golden, about 3 minutes. Add another 12 sage leaves or so to the garlic and oil. When the sage wilts, remove from the heat. Pour the contents of the pan over the peppers and fold gently to mix well.
- Place the mustard greens on the bottom of a serving bowl or platter. (I don’t like to cut or tear mustard greens, even if they are rather large. I prefer to serve them whole and let the diners cut them as they eat.) Using a slotted spoon, lift the cranberry beans from their cooking liquid and place them on top of the mustard greens. Spoon the peppers and their oil on top of the beans and greens. Sprinkle with a little coarse sea salt. Serve warm or chilled.