Fresh beans are fantastic. Dried beans are good too, but I like to buy them fresh when they're in season. Fresh shell beans are easy to prepare and cook much faster than dried varieties.
Beans are a healthy vegetarian protein and full of fiber. They can help balance blood sugar, regulate the digestive tract, and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer.
Just like their pods, uncooked cranberry beans are white with splashes of red. The spots disappear as the beans cook, turning them white or a light purple color.
If you don't have cranberry beans, you can make this recipe with another variety of fresh shell beans (but cooking time may differ). You can also substitute dried beans if you don't have fresh ones, but make sure to soak them first (and the cooking time will definitely differ). Avoid canned beans unless the cans are labeled "BPA-free."
In this recipe I used smoked bacon from pasture-raised pigs, but if you prefer, you could substitute another bold and salty flavor like anchovies or cured olives. I also used an orange heirloom tomato, but any fresh, ripe tomato will do.
This dish is a good example of how meat can be used as a condiment in a protein-rich dish, rather than the main ingredient. A little bit of bacon goes a long way.
2 sprigs rosemary, plus more to garnish
2 bay leaves
2 slices pasture-raised bacon, chopped, or 2 tbsp grass-fed butter
1 small onion
2 cloves garlic, grated, or more
1 large tomato, chopped
In a sauce pan, cover the beans, rosemary and bay leaves with a generous amount of water. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and simmer until they become tender, about 30 to 40 minutes. Allow the beans to cool in their liquid (which may be strained and reserved as stock for soup).
Add the bacon to a large skillet over medium heat. Allow the fat to start rendering while you chop the onion. Once the bacon starts cooking and some fat has rendered, add the onion and sauté until soft. Stir in the garlic and continue cooking until it becomes aromatic (less than a minute). Stir in the chopped tomato, a pinch of sea salt and ground peppercorn.
Strain the beans and reserve the cooking liquid. Discard the rosemary and bay leaves. Add the beans to the skillet and continue cooking until they warm through and the tomato breaks down to form a sauce, about 15 minutes. If the beans become too dry, add some of the reserved bean cooking liquid.
Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Transfer to a serving dish. Finely chop the rosemary reserved for garnish and sprinkle it over the top, or arrange the reserved sprig on the dish with the beans as a garnish.