Last summer my husband and I spent part of our honeymoon traveling around the Italian countryside. Or maybe I should say we spent part of our honeymoon eating our way through the Italian countryside. Almost every single meal was remarkably delicious. But, at the same time, almost every meal was also remarkably simple in its preparation. That is one of reasons why I enjoy cooking with fresh, local ingredients. They just taste so much better. They usually don't need much manipulation or fancy preparations to taste fantastic. Less work, better outcome.
I had this in mind when making this simple cranberry bean salad last week. I only used a handful of ingredients and couldn't be easier to throw together.
Fresh cranberry beans usually start showing up a little later in the season, but they're available early this year due to the crazy hot weather we've been experiencing here in the northeast. When picking out cranberry beans at the market, look for plump, colorful pods. And, quantity-wise, always take a little more than you think you'll need (I need to follow my own advice here, I almost always look down at the tiny pile of just-shelled beans and think, "That's it!?"). So throw a couple extra handfuls in your bag for good measure.
One note on the appearance: As you can see from the picture, cranberry beans are absolutely beautiful when they come out of their easy-to-open shells but lose their vivid color when cooked. I know its a little bit of a bummer, but one taste and you won't care anymore.
Try serving this as a side dish or with an antipasto course, along with olives, cheese and hearty loaf of bread with good olive oil.
Simple Cranberry Bean Salad
If you're not able to find fresh cranberry beans, use dried. Soak dried beans in water overnight, drain, and increase cooking time to about 45 minutes.
2 lbs fresh cranberry beans, shelled
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
salt & pepper to taste
Bring a stock pot of water and 1 teaspoon salt to a boil. Simmer fresh beans, covered, for 20-25 minutes. Beans are done when they are no longer mealy but still firm. Drain beans and toss with lemon juice, olive oil and parsley. Add salt and pepper to taste.