Thursday, November 3, 2011

Last Roman Beans of the Season

Two different sizes of Roman beans in my colander, November 3, 2011.
My friends Lisa and Louis turned me on to Roman beans accidentally.  I say accidentally because what they really did was serve me homegrown Calabrian beans, which have been grown by Louis' family for generations.  Louis and his family grow these beans each year and save the seeds at the end of the season, but Louis never gives anyone "take-home" beans.  You have to eat as many as you can when you're lucky enough to be invited to his house.  I love the "Bean and Potato" dish that Louis makes so much that I decided I needed to come up with a suitable replacement.  That's when I discovered Roman beans at my farmer's market.

I'll admit that Roman beans aren't nearly as wonderful as Louis' heirloom beans from Calabria, but they are pretty good in their own right.  I try to get them for as long as the supply holds out in the late summer growing season.  Life being what it is sometimes, I missed most of the Roman bean harvest this year and caught only the last few weeks of it at my farmer's market.  Only one vendor sells Roman beans at my market and I always buy several bags each week.  Unfortunately, I was so excited to find them two weeks ago that I cooked them up using my version of Louis' recipe and wolfed them down before I had a chance to take a photograph of them.  

I felt a little embarrassed about my gluttony after the fact and I vowed to remember to take a picture this week after buying another batch of beans at the farmer's market.  Little did I know that this would be my last opportunity of the season.  When I went to the farmer's stall, I was sad to discover only two small bags of Roman beans.  I was even sadder to see that the beans ranged in size from small to smaller.  When I asked why the beans were of such varying degrees of "small", he told me that these were the last Roman beans of the season and that they'd picked the vines clean to get these few bags.  I paid for my treasured beans quickly and shoved them into my orange mesh shopping bag before anyone else could see that I had the last two bags of beans in the entire farmer's market.

When I got home I realized that I would have to sort my beans into two groups-- small and smaller.  I also realized that I'd have to cook some of them longer than others.  It was well worth the effort.  My final batch of Beans and Potatoes was better than any I'd eaten all summer.  Perhaps it was because I knew I wouldn't see my beloved Roman beans for another year, but I suspect it was because I paid extra attention to the cooking process and managed to produce a bowl of Beans and Potatoes that were indeed superior to my previous attempts.  Either way, they were delicious.
My version of Louis Marchesano's recipe for "Beans and Potatoes", Nov. 3, 2011.

Beans and Potatoes
Based on a recipe by Louis Marchesano

  • 3 medium sized white rose or other waxy potato
  • 4 cups Roman or Calabrian beans
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped or sent through a garlic press
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Chop potatoes in half and then into 1/2 inch thick slices (they should look like half moons).
  • Steam potatoes for approximately 7 minutes or until tender to the touch.
  • Add beans and steam for approximately 5 to 6 minutes, depending on size of beans.  When finished steaming, beans should be tender and potatoes should be falling apart.
  • Gently place beans and potatoes into a large bowl and add garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper.  Beans and potatoes may be served warm or cold.  Louis has been known to eat them for breakfast.

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