This past weekend was very different from those over my last few weeks. It was sunny. It was unbelievably unplanned. It was, for the most part, calm, included my trip to the market for the first time in a month. And, oh yea, it was hot! Scorching! Sizzling! Add to that the Folsom Street Festival occurring blocks away from me, laden with men and women laden in all sorts of leather, chaps, chains, leashes, stilettos, platforms, and anything kinky, and it makes for, well, a more than out of the ordinary Sunday afternoon. Thus when Tuesday rolled around, the heat still blistering, and it was time to cook up some of the bounty I collected, I was at a loss. I wanted to make like the domesticated member of the couples I saw all weekend and just sit and not do any work. Ha.
Well, sitting around led to looking through cookbooks and magazines, as I thought…mmmm tomatoes (currently my absolute fave thing to get at the market, they will never be this good again until next year, so eat up chaps!) I found my calling. I needed some simplicity in my life, to balance out my weekend, and the market tomato and bean stew I found in a stored Food & Wine, August 2009, was exactly it. Although it may sound simple, with thyme as the only herb (from my “garden” where turtle doves try to take my seeds…little….sneaky… whippersnappers) and tomatoes being its other flavor enhancement, it was, well…perfect.
My Yerena Farms family, with Sylvia at the forefront, struck again, by sending me home with heirloom shell beans(I think they were Cargamanto), that are from a variety of bean which grows everywhere in her village at home in Mexico. Apparently, passersby just pick their veg on their way home for cooking. As my own addition, I added a few slightly spicy peppers (they looked a bit like romano, but smaller and thinner… NO not Ray Romano!) and onions. Paired with my favorite bread at the moment, Pinkie’s. It was a really a local meal, and a very satisfying one to share with a vegetarian friend that by no means wanted any of the meat in our neighborhood. Sorry. Couldn’t help myself.
Give it a try! What would you add to your fresh and simple summer bean stew if it were not peppers and onions like me? Or would you go sans fiddling? I am so horrible at that… at least when it comes to cooking! I am a fiddler and a poker.
Fresh Shell Bean, Pepper, and Tomato Stew
Adapted from Food and Wine Magazine, Best New Chefs, July 2010
1 1/2 to 2 cups fresh shell beans (flageolet, cranberry, heirloom, etc.)
2 to 3 cups vegetable stock
2 garlic cloves, quartered
2 sprigs thyme, plus 1/2 tsp thyme leaves
Pinch of baking soda
1 small onion, diced
2 to 4 Romano Peppers, sliced
1 to 1 1/2 lbs tomatoes, diced(if you can, get dry-farmed!)
1 to 2 tbsp butter
1/2 tbsp olive oil
In a soup or stew pot, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. When hot, add the diced onions and peppers, and until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add in the shell beans, garlic, thyme sprigs, stock, and baking soda. Bring to the boil, turn down heat, and simmer until beans are soft, about 30 minutes.
Drain the beans reserving 1 1/2 to 2 cups of the cooking liquid in the pot. discard the garlic and thyme sprigs. Add bean mixture and tomatoes back into the stew pot and simmer until the tomatoes begin to soften and release their juices, about 5 minutes. Take off the heat and stir in the butter, thyme leaves, and salt to taste. Serve hot with warm crusty bread (Walnut bread works quite well! Thanks Pinkie’s – best Walnut Levain ever!)