Shelling beans are available right now at farmers markets. You may have noticed them, beautifully mottled and colorful with long leathery pods. Last year I bought fresh beans already shelled. This year I bought three pounds of Stregonta, with a few other varieties mixed in, from Shelley at Whistling Train Farm and removed the beans from their pods myself. The plan was to make Fresh Beans Gratin.
There’s a sweet period of time between the crisp stage, not desirable for shelling (nor possible), and before the fully dried stage, when beans are still moist, delicate and creamy once cooked.
I arrived home with a gigantic bowlful and thought, damn, now I have to shell these things. But, it went quickly, and I found it satisfying, kind of meditative. Music in the background, a growing pile of fresh beans in the bowl, I was done in about a half an hour. The shelling is not as daunting as it seems, and the larger pods give up their beans easily. It’s a snap. In fact, if beans are actually snappy crisp they’re not ready for shelling. Sometimes leathery and large is a good thing, as it is with these Stregontas. Check Poppy’s recent post, Consume Your Legumes, for some in-depth information about local bean growing.
Freshly shelled beans require something a little more sophisticated, I thought, than my usual dried beans routine which consists of, well, beans, a lot of onion and garlic, maybe a ham hock. This fresh bean gratin is still rustic, but outside the normal beanery realm, for me at least.
The creaminess that the fresh– as opposed to dried – beans exude when cooked is sublime. Fresh beans cook quickly and this recipe comes together easily, then needs about an hour in the oven. It would be wonderful with Italian sausage, or any sausage, if that sounds appealing. The recipe for Fresh Shell Bean Gratin can be found via this direct link to Whistling Train Farm. You’ll need three pounds of shelling beans of any variety, greens of any variety, onion, tomato and garlic. The one thing I did differently was mix a little grated cheese into the breadcrumbs. After all, it is a gratin.
As a kid, whenever I tried to bluff my way out of a pickle, which might have been pretty often, my grandmother would say ‘you’re fulla beans’.
Yes, thank you.