Until a few years ago, I never really paid much attention to beans. Thanks to Tex-Mex and Southern cuisines, I grew up eating pinto and black beans with the occasional Boston baked bean thrown in, but we really didn’t eat a lot of beans. They just didn’t seem that interesting and you had to soak them, so they were kind of a hassle to cook.
Then, while visiting San Francisco a few years ago, I found the Rancho Gordo booth at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Markets. I was intrigued by all the different types of beans they had for sale – yellow eye, Christmas lima, scarlet runner, purple runner and zarco beans. Clearly, I was missing out on something.
I bought several bags of beans that day and started my love affair with beans. As it turns out, beans are great for you – both high in fiber and protein while being low in fat – and it’s easy to throw a pot on the stove to cook while you are working or doing chores around the house. They also freeze well so it’s nice to make a big pot and store the leftovers for those days when I can’t cook or for lunches.
Now when I go to markets around the country, I seek out new bean varieties to try. During my recent trip to Santa Barbara I was excited to find scarlet runner and calypso beans.
I made this simple soup using the scarlet runner beans, turnips and leeks – a lovely taste of spring. You can substitute another bean variety for the scarlet runners.
Scarlet runner bean and turnip soup
1 tbsp olive oil
4 leeks, trimmed and chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
3 medium turnips, chopped
1cup scarlet runner beans, soaked in water for two hours
water to cover
3 sprigs of fresh rosemary, leaves removed and chopped
salt, to taste
Heat olive oil in a large pot. Saute leeks and garlic in oil until just tender, about 4 minutes. Add the turnips and saute for another 5 minutes.
Drain the beans and add to the pot. Cover with water. Bring the beans to a gentle boil, then lower heat and allow to simmer until the beans are tender – about an hour and a half. After an hour of cooking, add rosemary and salt to the bean mixture. Adjust the seasoning as necessary when the beans finish cooking.