Results tagged beans from David Lebovitz

Fresh Shelling Bean Salad

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When I applied for my job at Chez Panisse, I’d just left a restaurant where the chef was, what we call in the business, a “screamer”. That is, one of those chefs who flips out in the kitchen and yells indiscriminately.

Contrary to what television might lead you to think, this isn’t a new, or even trendy, phenomenon. (The other type of chef that cooks dread are the “watchers”, the less-telegenic chefs, who stand around and watch everyone else do all the work.)

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The job I’d left was the only job that I ever dreaded going to since every day was pretty much a cauchemar (nightmare). So with a bit of trepidation, I asked Alice if she ever yelled, and she said, “Only if I see good food going bad. That makes me angry.”

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Fair enough—since I agreed.

Whenever I would see someone wasting something precious, like raspberries, or letting them go bad, I realized that those people likely had never navigated the thorny branches to see what goes into picking that pint of those berries. Or spent a few back-breaking hours hunched over in the scalding-hot sun, picking strawberries. So when people complain about the price of berries, I say, “Well, how much would you charge if you have to pick them?”

Continue Reading Fresh Shelling Bean Salad…

Les Haricots Tarbais

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Back in my intrepid youth, when my hair dipped below my ears (when I had hair, that is…), I flirted with vegetarianism. I should probably say it was more than a passing fancy; I was a vegetarian for about six years and even worked in a vegetarian restaurant. At Cabbagetown Café in Ithaca, New York, we’d ladle up bowls of Cashew Chili or curious soups, like the one that a co-worker would insist on enriching with generous -and nutrictious – dollop of peanut butter.

And don’t get me started on the bizarre customers we’d get. We had one regular, whose name we didn’t know (so we just called her ‘Beyond’) who would sit in the dining room and order only a bowl of brown rice. Then she’d spend hours in the dining room writing in her journal, in the teeny-tiniest letters imaginable, eating her rice grain-by-grain.

Eventually I started eating meat again because I got tired of being served pizza smothered with soggy vegetables and was constantly dreaming about diving into a big, soft, overstuffed corned beef sandwich. When I told my ‘alternative’ doctor about that, he said, “You know, if you’re craving something, that means your body needs it. So you should probably go ahead and have it.”

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With that advice, I left his office and made a beeline to the nearest Jewish deli, and ordered a big, honkin’ mound of hot corned beef barely contained by two sharp-crusted pieces of caraway-flecked rye bread with a smear of hot mustard. And from that day on, my vegetarianism was kaput.

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But you don’t need to be a vegetarian to love beans as much as I do. The top bean for bean-lovers, the holy grail of beans, are the haricots Tarbais, grown in the southwest region of France near the Spanish border. Planted in May, then harvested between August and October, haricots Tarbais are hand-picked and commonly used in cassoulet, that rich casserole baked with confit de canard, meaty Toulouse sausage, sometimes mutton, and topped with oily-crisp breadcrumbs, then baked until dense, rich, and savory.

There are lots of variations on cassoulet, of course, but I often cook beans just as a simple side dish. And since it was time to kick out my roommate, the drunken French sailor, I picked up a sack of beans and headed towards the kitchen. Although I was sorry to see him go, he wore out his welcome (and everything I owned was starting to smell like pork.) So I figured I’d give him one last hurrah before he got the heave-ho, and I used him to flavor a pot of delectable haricots Tarbais.

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Haricots Tarbais
Four servings

Although many say these beans will cook in one hour, I often find they’ll take longer, especially if yours aren’t as fresh. In Paris, the water is very mineralized, so cooks add a pinch of baking soda to the water or use bottled. You’ll have to be the judge; just cook them until tender and to your liking, adding more liquid if necessary.

When cooking any dried beans, salt should be added after they’re pretty well cooked, since it can inhibit the bean’s ability to soften and absorb water. Since haricots Tarbais might not be easily found where you are, use any good-quality dried white beans (haricots blancs), adjusting the cooking time accordingly.

8 ounces (225 g) Haricots Tarbais, picked through and soaked overnight.
6 cups (1.5 liters) water
pinch of baking soda (see headnote)

Plus any of the following:

  • 1 bay leaf
  • a few branches fresh thyme or savory (or a pinch of dried)
  • 1 small onion, peeled and halved
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1-2 whole cloves
  • 1 carrot, peeled and diced
  • 1-2 pieces of thick-cut bacon (potrine fumée), diced in big pieces
  • (or add a big 'ol ham bone, if you've got one)

-Put the beans in a big pot with the water, and other ingredients. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook partially-covered for about 1 hour, or up to 2 hours, until the beans are tender. Add salt to taste during the last 30 minutes of cooking.

-If using a ham bone, as I did, pull any bits of meat off the bone and add them to the beans. The beans will turn a darker shade as they’re cooked, as mine did.

-Serve warm, drained of most of their liquid (which makes a nice base for soup), alongside braised or roasted meats, or poultry.

Or drain, and use to make a bean salad. To avoid the thin, papery skin peeling off the cooked beans, toss them while warm in a decent-sized spoonful of olive oil right after they’re drained.


Note: Haricots Tarbais aren’t easily available in the US (they’re available on Amazon) but Rancho Gordo has started growing and drying the beans.

Fresh Shelling Beans

It’s been said the hardest thing about fresh shelling beans is finding them. If that’s true where you live, you’re missing something very special and one of the great treats of summer. You may have seen them at your market, but passed them by since you didn’t know what to do with them. And for some, cooking beans bring up images of beanpots simmering for hours, which can turn your summertime kitchen into a sauna.

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But fear not!

Fresh shelling beans take just a few minutes to cook, and taste worlds away from those dusty dried beans in that crumpled brown sack that you got years ago at the health food store thinking at the time that they’d be fun to cook, but once you got them home, they lost their appeal and are withering away in your cupboard along with that rusting tin of ancient curry powder you used a teaspoon of a few years ago to make that recipe from one of the hottest chefs from the 1999 issue of Food and Wine from that chef with the wind-swept, and perfectly up-jelled haircut, named Grant who converted an abandoned loft into Charleston’s super-hot new restaurant (it’s now closed) with industrial fixtures his model/girlfriend found at the flea market and arty waiters (who seem to spend as much time at the gym as they do in their art studios) in jeans and tight black Banana Republic t-shirts and one waiter had kind of a cool tattoo, as seen in the close up shot of his arm while delivering a plate of grilled curried monkfish.

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(Also in the back of that same cupboard is the bottle of dark corn syrup that you bought to make pecan pie and a few months later you found teeming with ants along the rim where the bottle didn’t close tightly and you washed it in under boiling water, scattering ants around your sink, but made you fearful of re-opening the bottle and getting the rim and neck all sticky again and having ants scramble all over your fingers. You’ve think you’ve gotten them all, then you discover one three minutes later scrambling up your arm.)

I rest my case. It’s better to buy fresh.

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Fresh shelling beans are wonderful in summer soups, but I prefer them as unadulterated as possible. They’re a snap to cook too. In France, there’s even a shelling bean, les haricots de Paimpol, which have their own AOC status, which I used to make this simple summer salad. (If you want to see how reverential the French can be about their beans, be sure to click on the link.)

Fresh Shelling Bean Salad

To make a gorgeous summer salad with shelling beans, simply tear open the pods of the beans and pluck out the beans. A pound of beans will give you enough for about 4 people.

Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil and drop the beans in. Let them simmer for about 20 minutes. Taste one (careful, they’re hot!). I like my just slightly firm, but not too crunchy. Most fresh shelling beans cook in 20 to 30 minutes. But cook them to your liking.

While they’re cooking, make a simple vinaigrette using olive oil, your favorite vinegar, and if you have it, you won’t be disappointed if you add a little pour of nutty walnut, argan, or hazelnut oil.

When the beans are done, drain them.
Toss the beans in the vinaigrette while they’re warm, allowing them to absorb the lovely flavor of the vinaigrette better. If you want, add some chopped herbs, like basil and thyme, some freshly-ground black pepper and minced shallots (which are one of the great secrets of French cooking. Professional chefs use lots of shallots too. How come you don’t use them?)
Let cool to room temperature. You can allow the beans to marinate for a few hours, which will improve their flavor.

Quarter some tomatoes, coarsely chop some fresh mint and flat-leaf parsley, and toss them with the beans. Taste for salt and seasonings.

Did someone mention tossing in some fresh, sweet kernels of corn?
Did I hear something about adding big chunks of crumbled feta cheese?
Isn’t there anyone out there fighting for coarsely chopped green or black olives?

Yes, yes, and yes!

I eat bowlsful of this salad on it’s own all summer long. It’s great just as it is, or as an accompaniment to roasted chicken or pork loin, or grilled fish. And it’s perfect for do-ahead entertaining.

Shelling beans: try ‘em today!