9.6.13 Spilling the Beans
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.
Braised Romano Beans
- — 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.