October, 2006

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Mystery Beans II
Oct 2nd, 2006



Aren't these pretty? They look like little green and white Tic Tacs, but they're actually Flageolet beans. I'm told they were developed in France and are often served as an accompaniment to roast lamb. And I have no idea why some are white and some are green - I googled around but people seem content to describe them as ranging in color from pale green to white and leave it at that. Flageolets are one of those ingredients I've come across in cookbooks but never actually tasted or even seen, so I was very excited to pick some up in the bulk bins at Bob's Red Mill.

I paged through my cookbooks to find a recipe and came up with a fairly traditional-looking one from Sally Schneider's A New Way to Cook. (Meredith are you lurking about? Does this look like a traditional French preparation to you?) Unfortunately I'm the only one in my household who likes lamb, so a roast leg of lamb seemed like overkill and my Flageolets had to accompany a pedestrian meal of pork chops and rice (and carrot sticks! they were actually surprisingly good with raw carrot sticks). Descriptions I've read of the flavor of the Flageolet liken it to a cross between a white bean and a fava, and I think this is pretty accurate. It tastes a bit more like a fresh shelling bean than most dried beans, and at least in this recipe, didn't cook down and get mushy at all. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the beans even maintained some of their green and white coloration after being soaked and then cooked all day.



I prepared the recipe exactly as written except I couldn't locate any savory, either fresh or dried, so I just left it out. And frankly, while the vinegar and parsley are marked as optional, I consider them mandatory. Nothing perks up beans like a little splash of vinegar - and while I didn't really taste the parsley it's fun and pretty to scatter over the top.

I've got one more package of new to me beans lurking in my pantry, so the third installment of Mystery Beans should be coming your way soon.


Flageolets with Tomatoes and Herbes de Provence

To cook the beans:
1 cup dried flageolet beans
1 small onion or 1 large shallot, peeled and stuck with 2 whole cloves
2 garlic cloves, unpeeled, lightly smashed
1/2 serrano or jalapeno chile, seeded and deribbed, or 1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
3 to 4 fresh thyme sprigs or 1/2 tsp dried
1 imported bay leaf
1/2 tsp kosher salt, or to taste

For the finished dish:
1 tbsp plus 1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 1/2 tsp fresh thyme leaves or 1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 1/2 tsp minced fresh savory or 1/2 tsp dried savory
1 tsp minced fresh rosemary or scant 1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 small ripe tomatoes, seeded and chopped
The cooked and drained flageolets from above (now miraculously 3 cups of beans)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 to 2 tsp Champagne or white wine vinegar (optional)
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley


To cook the beans:
Soak the beans in a quart of water either overnight in the fridge, or bring the beans to a boil for about five minutes and then soak in the fridge for a couple hours.

Drain the beans, cover with about an inch and a half of water, and add the onion, garlic, chile, thyme, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil over moderate heat, then reduce the heat to low. Cook the beans at a bare simmer until they are just tender but not mushy. Do not allow them to boil. Add the salt about half way through cooking time.

Once the beans are cooked, drain and discard the onion and other bits, but keep the cooking water. Heat 2 tsp of the oil in a large nonstick skillet over low heat and add the onions and garlic. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft, about 4 minutes. Uncover, increase the heat slightly, and cook until the onions are golden, about 5 minutes. Stir in the herbs and cook for another minute then add the wine. Cook for a few minutes until the wine is reduced by half and add the tomatoes. Simmer for about 10 minutes, until the juices have thickened.

Add the beans and simmer for another ten minutes, adding a bit of the reserved bean cooking water if they look a little dry. Season with salt and pepper and stir in the vinegar, if using. Just before serving, drizzle over the remaining 2 tsp olive oil and garnish with the parsley.

-adapted from Sally Schneider, A New Way to Cook
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