I grew these beans last summer in our garden. They are cranberry beans, a.k.a borlotti beans, traditionally used in the Italian soup Pasta e Fagioli. This is the second year that I grew them. The first year they were the size of small pearls but this year they were much larger, which I attribute to my super compost pile.
I got the seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds two years ago then saved some of the beans to plant after that first year and grew them last summer. The beans were planted in large, metal wash tubs with drain holes in the bottom. Bamboo stakes were used in a teepee shape as supports for the bean vines. The vines bloom with pretty flowers then pods form that initially look like long green beans. The pods get bigger and fatter and develop spots. They stay on the vine until dried, which here in Northern California was in mid-October, then are picked and shelled. I planted 12 seeds, 3 per pole, which yielded about one pound of dried beans.
With the wintry weather blowing in, it’s a good day to make some soup with my beans. The flavors of greens and beans comes through, with creamy notes contributed by the parmesan rind. Finished with a drizzle of fresh, local olive oil and grated parmesan sprinkled on top, it makes for a hearty lunch or supper.
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1large carrot and 2 celery stalks, chopped
2 leaves of fresh sage, minced or 1/4 teaspoon dried
1 small sprig fresh rosemary, minced or 1/2 teaspoon dried
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. dried cranberry or borlotti beans, soaked overnight or 5 cups of canned beans, drained and rinsed
1 can diced tomatoes with juice or 1 1/2 cups fresh tomatoes, diced
1 quart chicken stock
2 inch piece of rind from parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
4 packed cups kale or Swiss chard, tough stems and ribs removed, leaves sliced into thin ribbons
1/2 teaspoon salt and 6 grinds of fresh pepper from a mill
Extra virgin olive oil and grated parmesan for serving
First soak the beans overnight, they will swell to double their original size:
Heat oil in a 4 1/2 quart saucepan until shimmering. Add onions, carrots, celery and herbs and sweat, covered, over low heat for about 10 minutes, until vegetables are soft but not browned. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant. Add the beans, tomatoes, stock, cheese rind, pepper flakes and greens and bring to a boil.
Puree half the soup using a submersion blender or food processor.
Taste and adjust seasoning. Ladle into bowls, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with grated parmesan. Buon Appetito!