I’ve been reading about cranberry beans for years and kept wondering when I would actually see them at the market. I figured I could locate dried beans, but I wanted to find the fresh ones in those beautiful colored pods. Well last week my search ended when I spied a pile of them on a table at the farmers’ market.
I have to admit that until recently I never was much of a bean eater. I suppose I became a convert after sampling perfectly cooked cannellini beans in Tuscany. I was inspired to plan a dinner around my fresh cranberry beans after reading Elizabeth Minchilli’s post about them. I followed her direction for cooking the fresh beans and then proceeded with the recipe below to make the gratin. Before placing the dish into the oven I nestled a few links of Italian sausage into the beans and cooked for about 45 minutes.
The result was definitely a success and was reminiscent of a dish I’d eaten in Italy. There was however one problem and that was that I didn’t buy enough of these gorgeous beans. When I went back to the market this week I made a bee line to the farmer intending to but a big bagful only to be told he wouldn’t have any again until next week. You’ll know where I’ll be when the market opens!
Cranberry Bean Gratin
1 1/4 cups dried cranberry beans
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 small carrot, peeled, finely chopped
1 small stalk celery, finely chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
6 fresh sage leaves, chopped
1/2 cup chopped tomatoes, fresh or canned
1/2 cup toasted Breadcrumbs
Place beans in a large bowl and cover with 4 cups water; let soak overnight.
Drain beans and transfer to a medium saucepan; cover with water by 2 inches. Bring water to a boil, reduce heat and skim foam from surface. Continue simmering beans until tender, 30 to 45 minutes, adding more water as necessary. Season beans with salt and set aside to cool in their liquid.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium, heavy-bottomed skillet heat 1/4 cup of olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, carrot, and celery; cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and sage, and season with salt; let cook 5 minutes. Stir in tomatoes; cook 5 minutes more and remove from heat.
Drain beans, reserving liquid. Transfer beans to skillet with vegetables; stir to combine. Pour bean mixture into a medium gratin or baking dish; season with salt. Add enough bean cooking liquid to almost cover. Drizzle with olive oil and top with toasted breadcrumbs.
Transfer gratin dish to oven and bake for 40 minutes, checking occasionally to make sure the gratin has not dried out. If necessary spoon a little of the bean cooking liquid into the side of the gratin, to avoid wetting the breadcrumbs.