9.6.13 Spilling the Beans

Bean dish 1 790 xxx
photos by gluttonforlife
So many people say they feel better in the summer—the fresh air, the sunshine, the long days. I get it, I really do, but fall will forever be my favorite season. We're not quite there yet, though as I write this I am sitting in front of our first fire of the season. Yes, it was that chilly this morning. G and I did the switcheroo, where we move the dining table to the far side of the room and the couch back in front of the fireplace. Kitten is having a long bath in front of the blazing hearth and I am warming my toes from a safe distance.

Another harbinger of fall is the Romano bean, a long meaty pole bean that arrives along with the last of the summer tomatoes (of which we have multiple trays lining the kitchen counter). River Brook Farm, where we supplement our own crops, grows these green ones and also a lovely pale yellow variety called Marvel of Venice. These are Italian beans in the grandest tradition and they are so easy to prepare in the simple Tuscan style. I make a meal of them and, if you eat crusty bread, a big rustic slab would be the ideal complement.
Romano beans 790 xxx
hill of beans
As with all beans, you want Romanos that are firm, crisp and unblemished. Look for them now at the farmers market. They will keep for a week or so in your fridge, sealed in a plastic bag, so don't feel pressured to cook them immediately. You can steam or sautee them until still crunchy, but I think a slow braise to the point of meltingly tender perfection brings out their best qualities.
Ingredients 790 xxx
under the (Tuscan) sun
Romano beans have a natural affinity for everything that's ripening in the garden now: tomatoes, fennel, herbs, shallots, garlic. Their flavor is mellow and a bit nutty, with not too much starch. Other things you could toss into this recipe? Onions. Rosemary. Celery. Bay leaves. Dried red chile. Finish the dish with lashings of spicy olive oil. Maybe toss on some thin shavings of pecorino or Parmigiano. In the end, it amounts to more than a mere hill of beans. It's late summer on a plate.
Bean dish 790 xxx
 

Braised Romano Beans

serves 4
  • — 1 pound Romano beans
  • — 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • — 3 small shallots, thinly sliced
  • — 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • — 1 small fennel bulb, trimmed and roughly chopped (retain fresh fronds)
  • — 1/2 pound tomatoes (about 3 small), roughly chopped
  • — 2 tablespoons chopped fennel fronds
  • — 1 teaspoon ground toasted fennel seeds
  • sea salt & freshly ground pepper
  • fennel pollen, for optional garnish

Rinse and trim beans, as needed, discarding any stems.

Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large, heavy saucepan or Dutch oven. Add shallots, garlic and a fat pinch of sea salt and sauté until lightly golden. Add fennel bulb and cook for a few moments, then tomatoes and fennel fronds. Cook, stirring often, until everything is soft and melded, about 15 minutes. Add beans and stir to coat, then pour water over to cover, about 3 cups.

Bring to a gentle simmer, then cover and cook over low heat until beans are quite tender but not mushy, about 45 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature, drizzled with good olive oil, some flaky sea salt and a shower of fennel pollen, if you have it.

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5 Comments

Simmer 3-4 minutes or 34?
Diane on September 6, 2013 at 4:05 pm — Reply
Now that was a weird typo. Supposed to be 45 minutes. I fixed it - thanks, Diane!
laura on September 6, 2013 at 4:21 pm — Reply
Thanks!
Diane on September 6, 2013 at 7:39 pm — Reply
Hi sweetheart, I copied part of your post before holiday: "This blog launched in 2010 and I have gradually built a small but choice following, for which I am very grateful. The thing is, I can't help wondering why my work doesn't engage the sort of wider audience that seems to flock elsewhere in droves." May I suggest that the 56 warm/loving comments you received speak volumes? Change isn't always the best choice. Your followers love you because you are you: passionate, witty, bright as a new penny, and you are not afraid to open your heart. There is always something new to discover, recipes, gorgeous photographs and, always, your wonderful accompanying stories. Can we have caramels for Christmas? Please? Cheerio, Susan
Susan on September 6, 2013 at 7:17 pm — Reply
Well, I don't know about everyone else, but YOU sure can!! Thanks for always saying just the right thing, Susan. xoxo
laura on September 6, 2013 at 7:25 pm — Reply