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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Shell Beans and Summer Vegetables Stewed in their Own Juices

Until I moved to New Mexico I ate beans that were either reconstituted dry beans or canned. I suppose when very young I had a few lima beans in a frozen mixed vegetable mix. I started growing black-eyed peas amongst my corn (for nitrogen) and began to understand how lovely a fresh shell bean can taste before it is allowed to dry completely. I've also grown Hopi beans, a much larger bean which dries beautifully but tastes wonderful fresh. If you have no source for fresh shell beans, you can find frozen black-eyed peas or limas in the supermarket. See note below for suggestions if you can't find frozen shell beans.

Although I trust the author of the recipe, I was surprised at how delicious this soup is. It is completely satisfying as a meatless meal and filling as well. I like to serve it with crusty bread or cornbread, if I can stand to heat up the oven. 


Shell Beans and Summer Vegetables Stewed in their Own Juices

Adapted from: Local Flavors: Cooking and Eating from America's Farmers' Markets by Deborah Madison
Serves 4-6 generously


3 T olive oil
2 bay leaves
2 onions, chopped coarsely
7 fat garlic cloves, peeled and halved, divided
3 thyme sprigs (about 4 inches long), divided
6 fresh sage leaves
12 small (3-5 inch) carrots, or the equivalent of carrot sticks about 3 inches long
salt and pepper
1 pound, or more, small (about the size of a large marble) new waxy potatoes, or chunks of larger potatoes
1/2 pound yellow wax or green beans, trimmed and cut into 3 inch pieces
5 medium tomatoes, peeled and chopped into large pieces, any juices reserved if you can catch them
1 bell pepper, yellow or orange if possible, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 pound summer squash (or any type), cut into large pieces
1 to 2 pounds shelling beans, shelled, or about 1 1/2 c frozen black-eyed peas

This is one time when preparing most of the ingredients before you actually begin cooking is a good idea. 

Heat the olive oil with the bay leaves in a large Dutch oven over low heat. When fragrant, add the onions, garlic cloves, thyme sprigs, and sage leaves. Spread the carrots on top of the onions and do not stir. Season with salt and pepper; cover and cook about 5 or 10 minutes. Place the potatoes evenly on top of the carrots and onions. Add salt and pepper.

Place the yellow (or green) beans, tomatoes, bell pepper pieces, and squash in layers, salting and peppering after each addition. If there are any juices left from cutting the tomatoes, drizzle them over the top. Without stirring, cover and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 45 minutes raising the heat to medium-low (the idea is to sweat these vegetables rather than saute or boil). If tightly covered the vegetables will produce plenty of flavorful juices. If the pot seems dry, add a few tablespoons of water or white wine. But add just a little because you'll be adding the liquid from cooking the shell beans.

While the vegetables are cooking, simmer the shell beans in water to cover with 1 garlic clove and 1 thyme sprig and a little olive oil. When they are tender, season with salt and pepper. Add the beans, with any liquid to the pot.

Make the Basil Puree shortly before serving:

1/2 c packed basil leaves
1 garlic clove
3 T olive oil
1/2 c freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Chop the basil and garlic in a food processor with the oil and enough water to make a puree. Stir in the cheese, then taste and season with salt.

Serve the vegetables in soup plates and spoon the Basil Puree over them. Shave Parmesan cheese over each serving, if desired. 


I've never added any wine to this soup so can't vouch for the flavor difference. It is perfectly tasty with only water.

If you don't have fresh herbs, I am certain that you can use dried (except in the Basil Puree), although it won't be quite the same. Dried herbs have more oils so you should add less. I haven't tried it but imagine that a half teaspoon of rubbed sage and 3/4 teas of dried thyme would be a good point to start at. Taste it as it cooks and see if you need to add more.

As for substituting dry beans for the fresh shell beans: I'm also sure this can be done but you will have to give yourself extra time to make sure the beans are cooked before adding to the soup.

If you substitute a can of beans, I advise draining and rinsing the beans and adding a little extra water to the soup to make up for the loss of the bean cooking liquid. I don't know that I would use the canned liquid--it is often awfully salty. Although you might use half a can to get some more beany flavor.

I think you could also substitute 1 1/2 cups frozen edamame beans, but they won't need to cook as long either.

I also like to have plenty of potatoes and usually use more than what is called for (3/4 pound in the original recipe).

And finally, you don't have to mess with peeling the tomatoes if you aren't bothered with tomato skin pieces in the final product.

This recipe can be easily halved.

You can make sure you have basil year round, if you chop it up and mix it with some olive oil. Freeze in a zipper top bag in a thin layer. This way you can break off a hunk and use it when it is too cold to find fresh.

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