Much sweeter and more delicate in taste than common pintos or kidney beans, Cranberry Beans are popular in Italian, Portuguese and Greek cuisine. These beautiful, light colored beans with cranberry speckles are creamy in texture and have a mild, nutty flavor.
Cranberry beans can be used in a wide range of recipes, from stews, to baked bean dishes, to salads. They can even be cooked, lightly salted, and then kept chilled and eaten as a snack. A favorite Italian tradition is serving them at room temperature with olive oil, lemon juice and chopped fresh parsley as a part of an antipasto tray, paired with olives, cheese and Italian sausage.
Cranberry Beans & Kale – served over Polenta or Mashed Potatoes
- 2 c dried cranberry beans
- ¼ c olive oil
- 2 med onions, roughly chopped
- 4 to 5 cloves of garlic, chopped coarsely
- 1heaping t celery seed
- 1 large pinch dried thyme
- 1 pinch red pepper flakes
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 5 c liquid (I use a mix of vegetable stock and water)
- 2 to 3 bay leaves
- 1 carrot, peeled and snapped in half
- 1 large head of kale, washed and chopped (roughly 2 c)
- Pick through your beans to make sure there aren’t any pebbles or other debris hidden among them. Soak them in plenty of water overnight — enough to cover them by at least 3 inches or so.
- When you’re ready to cook, drain your beans. Heat a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the olive oil, then once you think it’s hot, add the onions. Sauté for about five minutes, then add the garlic, and let that cook for another minute or two. Add the celery seed, thyme, pepper flakes, and a big fat pinch of salt, plus a few cracks of pepper. Let cook for a few minutes, making sure the garlic doesn’t burn; add the beans, and cook for a few more, to let all of the flavors start to join forces.
- Add the liquid, bay leaves, and carrot, and bring everything to a boil. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour, checking periodically to make sure that the liquid doesn’t drop below the beans. If you’re not using salted broth, you’ll want to add extra salt; do so gradually, but don’t be timid.
- To check for doneness, make sure you test at least 4 or 5 beans. Once all of them are soft, but before they completely fall apart, add the kale. At this point, the cooking liquid should have thickened from the starch of the beans. Cook it until the kale wilts, about 5 to 10 minutes. Taste for seasoning.
- Serve over polenta or mashed potatoes; leftovers reheat beautifully, but you may have to add a splash of water if they look thick or dry.