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.