Betsey beans!


I’m always up for something new, especially when it comes to food — cooking or just eating it. So when Gil told me about a new gourmet food store that recently opened one town over, I could hardly contain my excitement and rushed there the very next day to see what it was about. Well! Zeytinia exceeded my expectations by a mile and we’ve already paid them three visits in one week. Their olive bar is a thing of beauty and sampling the varieties of honey could keep me busy for a year, easily. But where they really shine, IMHO, is in the produce section. The freshness of the fruits and vegetables alone would beat our local grocery, but they also have a variety I haven’t seen in this area.

As I was deciding between fava beans and cranberry beans (neither of which I’d cooked before), Gil made my decision for me: “Hey, those cranberry beans look like they were designed by Betsey Johnson!” (Reason 1, 375 why I adore this man so.) I only bought a small sampling just in case they turned out to be nothing special. I needn’t have worried, as it turned out. The test batch I made last night was so good, we found ourselves back at the store this morning for more, where I served as an ambassador for the beans, explaining how to cook them to a customer who stopped to ask. All I did was simmer the shelled beans in about 2 inches of water with a couple of whole garlic cloves, some peppercorns, and a few sage leaves. When they were soft but not mushy, I drained them, added salt and olive oil, and let them sit on the counter till they reached room temperature.

The beans had a very meaty, almost umami flavor and played well with a dandelion green salad and grilled skirt steak. I just used my regular old preparation of marinating the steak in oil (avocado, this time — another new purchase), garlic, and fresh herbs, then grilling over high heat.


The avocado oil had a beautiful green intensity you probably can’t see here, and a smoother flavor than the grassy olive oil I usually use. It was a good purchase, I’d say. It made a delicious dressing for the dandelion greens, as well, when mixed with sherry vinegar (to add sweetness to the bitter greens), roasted garlic, and a touch of Dijon mustard.

By the way, cranberry beans lose their beautiful pink swirly flair when cooked, but turn so delicious, the trade-off isn’t painful at all.


6 Replies to “Betsey beans!”

  1. the cranberry beans are so beautiful. I keep walking past them in the market. No more. I shall buy them this week. And that flank steak? Perfection. We just found a new butcher and I think that’ll be my next purchase. BEAUTIFUL!

  2. Hey, Alec — thank you! The cranberry beans won’t disappoint, I promise. Will you write about it?

    Miriam, we don’t think there’s any way Oakland can support the store for long, but we’re doing our best to keep them in business! When you’re in town next time, we’ll swing by to show you the newer, posher Oakland! hee-hee

  3. well, I know it must be authentic, since the Hebrew word for “olive” is “zayit”, and the other middle-eastern languages all sound similar: zeit, zait, zeyt, etc. .. hence Zeytinia –

    when I lived in Israel they all thought I was odd because I didn’t like olives, and not eating olives in Israel is like not eating apple pie in the US –

    coincidentally I read in yesterday’s PostDispatch that a new olive store will soon be opening here in St.Louis (maybe on Olive Blvd.?) – I wonder if this is the same chain as in Oakland –

  4. OK – so sue me – I take the blame – but give me credit for his talents too –

    by the way, his father used to load up on black Greek olives – he loved them, and I would buy them at the Grand Union deli by the pound or so each week – so I guess the aversion does come from me after all

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