Bean There, Done That

16 Oct

Last night, I was in the same room as Martha Stewart, Daniel Boulud and a Beastie Boy.

And yes, Carol, it was MCA.

There were other famous people in the room too, but I’m terrible at identifying famous people. I’ll stand and stare and think to myself, I know that person… But can never figure out how, until weeks or months later when I see them in a movie or on TV and blurt out, Oooooh! I talked to that guy at a party once!  The person I most wanted to talk to was Michael Colameco, the über-mensch of New York City public television food shows, but, by the time the speeches were over, I turned around and he was gone.  I was bummed.

So where was I?  At Chanterelle.  It was a launch party for David Waltuck‘s new cookbook.  The book is beautiful and the party was swish and the food delicious, but $54 was too rich for my blood. I think I’ll be putting it on my Christmas wish list. And even though I was having a blast, I decided to leave early, so I would be home in time to watch last night’s debate.

As I was walking up Thomas Street to catch the bus, I heard that unmistakable whine and stutter that New York City’s buses make.  I looked up, and there it was, the X27 passing by.  I broke into a full run, blasted around the corner onto Broadway, only to see the bus pulling away from the stop.

I slowed down, but then the bus stopped, so I took off again at a full gallop.  And then the bus pulled away again, but I was already running, so I kept going, and after about five blocks, I finally caught up to it.  But let me tell you something… After a handful of hors d’œuvre and three glasses of Pol Roger, five blocks at a full tilt is tantamount to the New York City Marathon.  Thank god I wasn’t wearing heels!

I made it home in time to catch the debate (I swear if McCain said Joe the Plumber one more time I was about to lose the very cute, incredibly delicious deviled quail eggs I had gorged on earlier in the evening) and to peek at the winner of Project Runway (I won’t spoil it, but I will say that I’m very pleased).

But you know what? This wasn’t my favorite cookbook event of the week, not in any way.  Nope.  Last Wednesday, I was able to sneak away from my desk for 30 minutes, to finally meet my bean-guru, Steve from Rancho Gordo.  He was in town spreading the bean gospel, signing copies of his cookbook at the Union Square greenmarket.  We chatted while he signed my book, a bargain at only $20, discussing beans and cooking and gardening and business.  It was the most pleasant break I’ve taken from work in months.  And when I walked away, I was inspired.

On Saturday, I made a loaf of Rose Levy Beranbaum‘s basic hearth bread, roasted a chicken (the rest of which is waiting patiently in the freezer for stock making next weekend), and boiled up some beans.  Earlier in the summer I went absolutely nuts at the greenmarket buying up, in bulk, every kind of shell bean I could find.  I bought pink ones, and blue ones, black ones and red ones, fat ones and skinny ones and one sort that are so beautiful, they look like the night sky.  Issac and I spent hours shelling them and then gently tucked them into the freezer.

A few weekends ago I made Tuscan Magic Beans with fresh cannellinis from my stash (I also made the world’s most glorious lasagna entirely from scratch and never told you about it).  The beans were a revelation.  People always say that dried beans and canned beans are just fine, that nothing is lost in the processing.  To them I now must say, malarkey.  Fresh cannellini beans have as much in common with canned cannellinis as canned artichoke hearts have in common with spring’s first, tenderest, most beautiful tiny purple artichokes served shaved as a salad in a Florentine trattoria.

The beans I made over the weekend were a mix of Steve’s fool-proof method and my version of the Tuscan magic way.  I sauteed onions, boiled beans, and then at the last minute added some raw onion, lemon zest and chopped olives.  The beans had an alluring, attractive, secretive aroma that traveled all the way down.  They were delicious with the bread and chicken for dinner, but definitely were better the next morning as breakfast, refried, on toast with poached eggs.

And while I enjoyed my rub with real celebrity; I mean, let’s be honest, if someone had walked over to me and said, “Ann, allow me to introduce you to Martha Stewart,” I would have lit up like a Christmas tree.  But in reality I found my little chat with a bean celebrity far more fulfilling and inspirational.  I just never know what to say to celebrities. I know I would hate having people walk up and babble at me, but isn’t that what being a celebrity is all about?  What do you think?  Should I have tried to meet Martha?

Head below the jump for the recipe for Perfumed Dinner (or Breakfast) Beans.

Perfumed Shell Beans

prep time: 20 minutes if the beans are shelled, longer if not ~ cooking time: 30-40 minutes

  • Olive Oil
  • 1 1/2 Onions, finely minced
  • Garlic, lots to taste, minced
  • 1 cup Shell Beans, shelled, any pale sort
  • fresh Marjoram
  • Water
  • 1 Lemon, zested
  • a handful of good, pungent Olives, pitted and roughly chopped
  • Salt

Heat a glug of olive oil in a pot over medium heat.  Add the one onion and cook until softened 5-8 minutes.  Add the garlic, the beans, a few leaves of marjoram and enough water just to cover.  Bring to a boil for a few minutes then lower to a simmer.  Cook 20-30 minutes until the beans begin to break down and release their beany goodness into the cooking liquid.  The beans shouldn’t smell “green” anymore, but rather, uhm, beany.

Turn off the heat and add the other half onion, the lemon zest and olives.  Stir in and taste. Add salt only after tasting.  Enjoy!

These are especially good the next day, refried, and served on homemade toast with butter and a poached egg.


16 Responses to “Bean There, Done That”

  1. Lisa (Homesick Texan) October 16, 2008 at 8:39 am #

    Wasn’t Steve wonderful? I’m going to spread the gospel by giving his book with beans to everyone on my list this year!

  2. EB October 16, 2008 at 9:27 am #

    Aren’t Rancho Gordo beans just amazing? Whatever you make them comes out just so rich and amazing. I love that they’re so accessible here in the Bay Area.

  3. Julie October 16, 2008 at 1:19 pm #

    Holy crap you have some gorgeous pictures here! Were they all taken in the Adirondacks? What a beautiful place.

    I also admire your persistence in running 5 blocks behind a bus. I’d have assumed catching that bus was an impossibility long before 5 blocks.

    More thrilling to meet Martha Stewart or Steve or Rancho Gordo? Steve, hands down.

  4. vegeyum October 16, 2008 at 2:33 pm #

    Such beauty. Such exercise. What a dish! (I cant get over 5 blocks after Pol Roger)

  5. radish October 16, 2008 at 2:58 pm #

    Amazon has the book for $30 :) That’s more palatable, right? Still, in this economy, i find that blogs and other online sources are perfect. Sounds like you had a fabulous evening — martha in the same room? I swoon at the mere thought.

  6. Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) October 17, 2008 at 6:11 am #

    I’d take Steve over Martha in a heartbeat, though of course I’d love to meet both of them. But Steve’s beans have been a revelation to me, too. In my next life, I’m planning to marry a guy who loves beans as much as I do. For now, though, I’m the only bean eater in my household, and I get to keep the beans all for myself.

  7. Lucy October 17, 2008 at 6:46 am #

    Gorgeous photos, Ann. Thanks!

  8. WillB October 17, 2008 at 6:58 pm #

    Is it my imagination or are the colors more spectacular this Fall? Great pics!

  9. Toni October 17, 2008 at 10:27 pm #

    First of all, I love the image of you running down the street to catch the bus. I can picture it, having done the exact same thing when I lived in “The City”. Secondly, thank you for letting me vicariously enjoy autumn! Oh, the colors………!!!!

    And lastly, but far from least, I adore your recipe! I guess I’ve heard people say that canned and fresh are the same, but I’ve never met a canned and fresh ANYTHING that was the same – have you?

    And I agree with the comments above – Steve. Definitely.

  10. ann October 18, 2008 at 7:33 am #

    Lisa — I agree. He was so awesome. Meeting him really drove home my deeply hidden jealousy of the people that get to hang out at the Ferry Terminal Market every weekend.

    EB — I only know of one place where we can buy Steve’s magic beans here in the city, which is such a drag… I’m completely jealous! But I guess its just more motivation for me to grow my own next summer :-)

    Julie — Those are all the Taconic Mountains, a part of the Berkshire Mountains in the Hudson River valley. Beautiful, no? I think the idea of standing around in a deserted Financial District was the motivation for running after the bus. It can be so bleak and desolate down there at night. Plus, I didn’t know it at the time, but I really wanted to hear McCain talk about Joe the Plumber. I mean, who wouldn’t, right?

    Vegeyum — I’m glad someone understands! :-)

    Radish — $30 is imminently doable! But yeah, I agree. Hoard, hoard, hoard. That’s my mindset right now. So strange.

    Lydia — I think you’ve got the perfect set up! Isaac and I are always fighting over the last bean (not really, but you get the picture ;-)

    Lucy — You’re very welcome!

    Will — I agree. They *have* been far more spectacular than I can ever remember them being in the past. Must be the warm days and crispy nights. I love it. It’s been the most wonderful welcome back to the country.

    Toni — It was so funny. I kept whimpering under my breath “oh please bus, stop stop!” The European tourists (who are the only folk on lower Broadway after 7pm) must have thought I was insane!!

  11. Carolyn T at October 19, 2008 at 9:07 am #

    Ann – love your blog, by the way. Your photos are stunning. Always. I just wanted to say that if you have any leftover cannellini beans, you can make them into a great brunch (or supper) dish. I read about it first at Chez Loulou last week, but she got it from Stonesoup. I made it the other night (chorizo, onions, garlic, tomatoes, tomato paste, red wine vinegar, the beans, then you crack a few raw eggs into indentations and bake). It was easy and just delicious. I used canned beans. I agree with you that freshly made beans are the best, sometimes for convenience sake I use them. My version (for two) will be posted on my blog tomorrow in case you want to check. Or go check on the other two blogs if you want.

  12. Sandie October 20, 2008 at 2:48 pm #

    I’ve got to make these beans. I know this portrays me an outsider here, but I’ve never heard of Steve or Rancho Gordo before (I did check out your links though, so now I’m more in the know).

    That’s why I like reading other blogs so much…I love discovering new people, places, cookbooks, and recipes. Speaking of which, your photos with this post were so calming. Loved the photo of the creek (river?) & the shot of the horse by the railroad tracks. Absolutely gorgeous!

  13. French Laundry At Home October 20, 2008 at 6:32 pm #

    MCA…. sigh……

  14. Robin October 21, 2008 at 4:29 pm #

    Oh my god – what celebrities you’ve been hanging out with!

    I think I need to give in and order Rancho Gordo beans. Everyone seems so wild about them. I’ll start with your recipe! :D

  15. michelle October 22, 2008 at 12:56 pm #

    here’s the thing – i know you don’t live very far away from me. and yet, i am never invited over for dinner. now, i know that we may not actually know each other, but that seems like a technical glitch.

  16. ann October 22, 2008 at 6:58 pm #

    Carolyn — Thanks so much for the recipe tip! I think it sounds amazing, and there just might be another member of my household that would feel the same way. I feel a wonderful wintry dinner coming on!

    Sandie — Thanks! You should definitely put Steve’s bean cookbook on your holiday list, along with a few bags of his beans. That would be such a lovely gift! And thanks for the compliments on the photos. The reflections on that little creek were so amazing. If cars hadn’t been careening over the bridge nearly non-stop, I could have stood and gazed forever.

    Carol — :-)

    Robin — They’re the best. Seriously. Start off with Steve’s basic pot of beans. They’ll blow your mind!

    Michelle — You’re right! It must be a technical glitch… You know how those carrier pigeons get so confused ;-) Just kidding! Soon… soon…

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