Monday, September 10, 2007
Cranberry Beans get into a soup
Going to the farmers' market is as rewarding as it is challenging. The payoffs are many - fresh local produce, interesting varieties that one would never see in a supermarket, people who are willing to give you a tip or two on how to cook something, photo opportunities, people watching, goods from local bakeries, cheese makers, fresh flowers, live music, and in general, the feeling of all being well with the world, if only temporary.
All this does require some endurance as well as flexibility, because the farmers' markets are only open for a few hours every week, often requiring one to be up early on a weekend morning to get there in time. Once there, one needs to tote everything in hand or on shoulder, as there are no shopping carts, and one needs to dig into the purse for cash for each vendor instead of a final checkout. For me, the rewards far outweigh the effort, and so I try to get there every which weekend I can manage to.
It was during one such visit a few weeks ago that I nearly squealed with joy when I saw cranberry beans. I had read about them and seen pictures of them, but had never actually found them. When I bought a bagful, the young man at the stall told me that I need to cook them in boiling water for about 15 minutes after they are shelled. 'A little olive oil and salt, and they are really good', he added.
Shelling and Cooking
Accordingly, I put the shelled beans into a pot of water, and boiled them until tender. In the process they lost those glamorous looks and turned into a pinkish beige, and when I tried a few with a touch of salt, the taste was just OK, so I decided to give it a light tadka, and finish with some cumin and coriander powders. The result still tasted just OK, nothing special.
You might wonder why I am posting about them if I didn't like them as much then. Definitely not because of their photogenic looks, although that would makes a compelling reason to post the pictures at least. Well, it is to write about the soup I made with the broth that resulted from all that bean boiling. It was inspired by a soup called kaLaN in Marathi, which is typically made with the broth that results when beans are cooked, when making usaL for instance.
The color that the cranberry beans lost was gained by the water, and it turned to a blushing pink which is not so visible in the photo. To this broth I added some grated ginger, minced green chilies, salt, a pinch of sugar, and boiled it for another few minutes, then strained it and added some chopped cilantro leaves on top. The result was a delicious and light warming appetizer soup - a lot more delicious than my pictures or words could describe, and the beans were forgiven.