Thursday, October 13, 2011

Blogging About Beans

I have a farmer friend named Kasey White, of Lonesome Whistle Farm. They grow amazing garlic, assorted tomatoes and etcetera, and heirloom beans & grains.  They also grow black popcorn, which is really exciting and a perfect Halloween treat!

Look closely at the amazing colors of all those beans!
Their farm offers a CSA for their beans and grains, and I am so excited to be on the list of CSA Members. I am doubly excited because I am working off part of the cost of my share by featuring these tasty foods, and creating recipes for them, all to be exhibited here on my blog. I like this arrangement because I love to work for food, I like the challenge of new recipes, and I want to help support farmers - especially farmers who are trying to grow heirloom species and keep bio-diversity alive.

The CSA starts officially this month, and to start us off, Casey gave me a little bag of "Ireland Creek Annie" beans from last year's harvest. Lonesome Whistle didn't grow this bean again this season, so we will have to look elsewhere for it... because it was really, really tasty.

To start learning about heirloom beans, I'm going to cook each one as a plain bean before I attempt any recipes. I had heard Kasey say that heirloom beans have more complex flavors than the regular old black bean or kidney bean you buy in the store, so with the Ireland Creek Annie beans, I set out to test that assertion.

Beautiful beans. Gorgeous garlic.

These beans are a "white bean", of the kind you might use in baked beans, or a simple bean soup (keep reading if you like the soup idea...).  With half of the pound we soaked them in warm water, and cooked them at a simmer on low for a while.

(In the future I will give better, more detailed information about my cooking process...promise.)

Sister-Bug examines the dry beans.
Anyway. They had a soak and simmer until they tested done.

I mixed them with a little of Kasey's garlic, some butter, and some parsley... and of course a touch of salt and pepper. Just plain beans.

And what do you know! They were way more flavorful than most beans I have eaten. The garlic and the butter were good, but these beans could have stood alone as just a simple bean and still been very enjoyed by our family.

Their texture was smooth and a little starchy, and the flavor was nutty. One thing I have noticed about other heirloom foods I have tried, and these beans are no different, is that they taste like the "normal" incarnation of the food (white beans in this case) only more so. These beans were "beanier" than my usual white beans.

When cooked, they retained their color and shape better than my usual bean. There were few of the exploded or mushy beans mixed in, and they held up well when I was stirring in the butter and garlic. 

They were a huge hit with my family - everyone eating them up with alacrity.

Beans, garlic, butter... Bon apetit!
 With the second half of the pound, I wanted to see how they fared in a more flavorful recipe. I invented

Dinosaur Bean Soup

It comes by its name from the addition of Italian Kale, which my family thinks looks like something a dinosaur might eat or wear.

1 large leek - coarsely chopped
1 celeriac - peeled and cubed
1/2lb bacon - cut into chunks or bits
1 bay leaf
2 cloves garlic - minced
1/2 lb Ireland Creek Annie beans - pre-soaked (or other white heirloom bean)
1/2 by Italian kale - coarsely chopped or torn
4-ish cups of water
Salt and pepper

Heat a large soup pot. Add the bacon (we used Deck Family Farm Lamb Bacon, which has a flavor like no other. If you haven't tried Lamb Bacon, I think you should. Unless you don't eat lamb...). I usually take scissors and snip the strips into 1/2 inch pieces as I add it to the pan. Cook for a couple of minutes to let the fat coat the pan, then add the leek, celeriac, bay leaf, and garlic. Cook for until the bacon is just beginning to crisp.

Add the soaked beans and water. Cover and simmer for about 40 minutes. Check the beans a couple of times. If you have pre-cooked your beans, you need to just heat the water and everything thoroughly. Just before serving, add the kale, stir, and wait a few moments for the kale to wilt.

(To make a vegetarian version, omit the bacon, saute the veggies in olive oil, and add 1/2 tsp. veggie bullion to fill out the missing bacon flavor.)

Serve and enjoy. This is good with crusty bread.

Sister-Bug gives these beans her hungry toddler award. She wouldn't stop eating them!
Keep checking back for more bean recipes, information about heirloom beans & grains, and other related content. And go to your Farmer's Market and find a heirloom bean farmer, because if these beans are any indication, you will not be disappointed!

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