Monday, June 4, 2012

What's Cookin?: Cranberry Beans and Kale Stew

Have you ever had cranberry beans before?  They're so good!  Last year I grew a type of Italian cranberry bean called Borlotti and loved them!  If you can find them fresh in the pods, lucky you!  If you buy them fresh, you won't need to soak them and precook them.  Cranberry beans are usually in season during the summer months.  I happened to find out that Bob's Red Mill sells dried cranberry beans.  Hooray!  Now you can enjoy them any time of the year!

One of my new year's resolutions has been to incorporate more whole grains and vegetables into my diet.  One of the superfoods of the vegetable world is kale.  It packs a lot of vitamins (beta-carotene, vitamin K, vitamin C & calcium) and fiber in a whopping punch.  I love using it in different ways in my diet.

I was really excited to find a recipe incorporating both cranberry beans and kale on the back of the Bob's Red Mill Cranberry Bean bag.  Score!  This recipe was originally made as a vegetarian meal.  However, I put my own spin on it and used a package of Aidells portobello mushroom smoked chicken sausage and some leftover beef broth I had.  Next time I think I'll use a spicy sausage instead, like chorizo.  If you're short on time, try soaking the beans overnight & boiling them one night and storing them in the refrigerator until you're ready to throw the stew together.  Cooked cranberry beans will keep for about 1 week in the refrigerator.  

I was a little apprehensive about the recipe since it was called "Cranberry beans and kale" but after reading through the recipe, it seemed more like a soup.  Then there was the cornmeal that is added at the end.  What was that all about?  I've never used this technique so I wasn't sure what to expect.  I didn't have yellow cornmeal so I used blue cornmeal instead.  The cornmeal helps thicken the soup and make it into a stew.  Yummy!!

Cranberry Beans and Kale Stew
Serves 6-8

1 c. dried cranberry beans (see cooking instructions; will yield 2 - 2 1/2 cups cooked beans)
water for cooking beans
olive oil
4 links or about 12 oz. sausage, diced
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
6 c. vegetable broth (use what you have; I used 2 c. leftover beef and 4 c. vegetable broth)
1 can (6 oz.) tomato paste
2 tsp. red pepper flakes (optional)
1 lb. kale, removed center ribs & chop leaves (I used lacinato kale)
salt & pepper to taste
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 c. medium cornmeal (I used blue cornmeal since that was what I had)
1/2 c. water
juice of 1/2 lemon

1) Soak 1 c. dried cranberry beans in about 5 c. water overnight.  This will decrease overall cooking time of the beans and leach out the hard to digest complex sugars that result in gas and flatulence.  If you have time or the inclination, change the soaking water when you think if it.  Otherwise, just let it soak overnight.

2) The next day, drain your hydrated beans.  Rinse well to remove the complex sugar water.  Place cranberry beans in a pot and cover with fresh water.  Make sure water covers the beans by about 2 inches.  Bring the water to a boil over medium-high heat then reduce heat to a simmer.  Simmer beans in the water for about 1 hour.  Turn off stove and drain beans again.
**If you're making the beans ahead of time, you can cool the beans and store them in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.  When you're ready, take them out of the fridge and throw the stew together**

3)  Add some olive oil to a large pot.  Over medium-high heat, cook your sausage.  Add chopped onions and garlic and continue to cook until the onions are translucent.  Stir frequently to prevent the garlic from burning.

4) Add the broth, tomato paste, red pepper flakes (optional), kale, salt & pepper and cumin to the pot.  Stir well and bring the soup to a boil.  Then reduce heat and simmer for about 20-30 minutes or until the kale becomes tender.  In a bowl, mix the cornmeal, water and lemon juice into a paste.  Slowly pour it into the soup and mix well.  You will notice the soup thickening into a stew.  Simmer stew for another 15-20 minutes.  Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.

**Linking up to Wendy's Garden to Table Challenge (GTTC) at Greenish Thumb.  Come see what other home cooks are making with their harvests**


Allison Preiss said...

I think I have heard of cranberry beans but i have never tried them. interesting....

Liz said...

I grew borlotti beans this year - really nice to grow, but you do need quite a few plants to get a decent amount. I make a stew similar to this one using silver beet instead of the kale - really good.

Norma Chang said...

This is a vesatile stew that one can adapt to use so many different kinds of beans and veggies, really it. Thanks for sharing.

~Holly~ said...

allison: I think they may have other names for the cranberry bean. They're delicious!

liz: I agree. I tried beans last year (also a borlotti bean). It took up a lot of space and the growing season was so long (and longer to dry them). I scratched that ideas this year. Good luck on your beans. I'm sure they'll be tasty!!

norma: Yes! You could really do a lot with this recipe! It's yummy too!

Wendy said...

This sounds really great. I am totally in a soup stew phase right now.

~Holly~ said...

Wendy: Aren't you proud? It's not swiss chard this week!! ;0)