Last Saturday as I sklathed myself around the apartment fighting the tail end of a sinus cold, Mr. T decided to jaunt off to the 14th & U Street Farmers’ Market for a few provisions. While he can always be counted on to buy tomatoes, peaches, and bread, he’s also quite adept with more imaginative purchases.
No surprise really. As he’s fond of pointing out, Mr T. possesses a vast theoretical knowledge of food, garnered from a lifetime of discriminating dining, and–of course–10 years in the immediate impact zone of a certain culinary tornado. So, when he recognized the vibrantly striped cranberry beans at the market as the key ingredient to a tasty Turkish mezze, he scooped a big bag up and brought them back as a special treat/challenge.
The cranberry beans–aka Roman beans, aka barbunya–are gently stewed in olive oil and tomato to make a really tasty topping for bread or crackers: tender beans in a clingy, tomato-y sauce. I have to admit that I was taken aback by how tasty this was for all its simplicity. The long cooking reduces the tomatoes and onions to a rich, deeply flavorful sauce punctuated by sweet carrots and tender, substatial beans. Though I liked it warm, Mr T says it’s traditonally served cold, so I’m going to split the difference and recommend it at room temperature.
Barbunya (Cranberry Beans in Olive Oil)
Yield: ~6 mezze servings
2 c shelled cranberry beans (~2.5 lbs whole beans)
5 large Roma tomatoes
1/4 c olive oil
2 medium onions
3 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp dried oregano
sea salt & freshly ground pepper
1 tbs minced fresh parsley
Shell cranberry beans and set aside.
Fill a medium saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Cut a shallow “X” in the base of each tomato. Immerse in the boiling water for 15 seconds and remove to a cutting board a slotted spoon. Pour the water from the pan and dry it out. When cool enough to handle, peel the tomatoes, seed them, and cut into1/2″ dice. Set aside.
Peel the onions and garlic. Quarter the onions and slice thinly. Mince the garlic. Peel the carrots and cut into 1/4″ rounds.
Return the sauce pan to the stovetop and warm the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the onions and saute till translucent, 4-5 min. Add the garlic, carrots, and organo. Saute just a minute more. Add the tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, till the beans are tender and the sauce is reduced to a pulpy thickness. Season to taste with salt.
Top with minced parsley and serve with flatbread and lemon wedges.