Runner Beans

March 16, 2011

Borlotti Beans with Sage

Borlotti Beans with Sage

Borlotti Beans with Sage

A satisfying meal: borlotti beans cooked with water, sage and salt.


Borlotti Beans dried

When cooked, the borlotti beans lose their pink marbling and turn solid brown in color.



Fresh sage from the Farmers Market.

Remember when I wrote about cranberry beans last summer? Intrigued by this bean with a curious name and deep pink marbling, I bought a couple pounds of the fresh beans and set out to discover all the wonders fresh beans had to offer. It didn’t take me long to realize that as much as I like the idea of fresh beans, I’m not a fan of shelling beans. And I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who’d rather not shell beans: the vendor at the Farmers Market who sold fresh cranberry and fava beans last summer is now selling bags of the beans dried. “Dollar a bag! Dollar bag!” he calls out, referring to the bags of beans purposefully arranged next to the weighing-scale and cashbox. Like kids in the grocery store checkout line, we’re sold on these last-minute sundries and indulge in an impulse buy: two bags of dried cranberry beans.

Why all this talk about cranberry beans when this post is supposed to be about borlotti beans? Well, they happen to be the same bean. When I’m referring to a recipe, I like to call the beans borlotti beans instead of cranberry beans because the word “cranberry” can bring about some inaccurate connotations (I, for one, can’t stop thinking about cranberry sauce when I hear the words “cranberry beans”).

In his cookbook How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, Mark Bittman claims that dried beans are superior to canned beans. I was skeptical. Canned beans are so convenient, I thought, dried beans better have something amazing going for them. According to Bittman, that amazing something is the bean’s cooking liquid (and price). Really? Could this dirty-looking water be that flavorful? Yes, in fact, it can. I discovered this quite by mistake when I was cooking borlotti beans to use in another recipe yesterday. I added a sage leaf and some salt and let the beans simmer while I paid attention to my other more-important cooking projects. When it was time to use the beans, I tasted them and was astounded how rich and flavorful they were. There was a subtle hint of sage, the beans were creamy inside and the cooking liquid was as hefty and rich as any beef broth. These beans weren’t going in my other project; there were going straight to the dinner table. Up until yesterday, I had been tossing the beans into tomato sauces to give them flavor; I never realized how flavorful the beans were in themselves, in their own cooking liquid. Mark Bittman was right: dried beans really are superior to canned beans. These beans were a good reminder that convenience isn’t everything and sometimes a little extra effort goes a long way.

Dried beans aren’t nearly as convenient as canned beans, but the good news is that while the beans soak and cook they barely need to be attended. That’ll give you plenty of time to fold laundry or catch up on the DVR. Leftover cooked beans can be stored in their cooking liquid in the refrigerator or freezer.

Makes 5-6 cups cooked beans.


1 pound dried borlotti or cranberry beans, rinsed and picked over
1-2 sage leaves

Make the Borlotti Beans with Sage

Soaking: Put the beans in a large pot with a tight-fitting lid and cover with cold water by 2 to 3 inches. Bring to a boil and boil the beans, uncovered, for about 2 minutes. Cover the pot and turn off the heat. Let the beans soak for about 2 hours.

Cooking: Taste a bean. If it’s tender (it won’t be done), add a large pinch of salt and the sage and make sure the beans are covered with about an inch of the soaking water. (If not, add a little water). If the beans are still raw, don’t add salt and sage yet and cover with about 2 inches of water.

Bring the pot to a boil, then reduce the heat so that the beans bubble gently. Partially cover and cook, stirring occasionally, checking the beans for doneness every 10 or 15 minutes, and adding a little more water if necessary. If you haven’t added salt and sage yet, add it when the beans are just turning tender. Stop cooking when the beans are done the way you like them, taste and adjust the seasoning, and use immediately or store.

Quick-Soak Cooking method adapted from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman (p 581).

January 19, 2011

Roasted Squash Soup

Roasted Squash Soup

Roasted Squash Soup

It all started with cauliflower soup. My first attempts at cauliflower soup were—shall we say—uncomplicated.  I’d boil cauliflower in chicken broth, puree it in the blender, stir in some milk or yogurt for creaminess and top it off with some fresh thyme. Yes, the soup was uncomplicated, but it was also utterly uninteresting, not to mention it bore an undesirable resemblance to homemade baby food.

Thankfully, I discovered a recipe for Roasted Heirloom Cauliflower and Chestnut Soup on the beautiful blog Roost.  Yes, roasted cauliflower soup. Roasting would be the key to transforming baby-food-quality cauliflower soup into something worthy of sophisticated dinner party fare.

The amazing thing is you can roast any vegetables and make them into soup, which is great because roasting yields immense flavor with minimal effort. I followed the method for Roasted Cauliflower Soup, but instead of cauliflower I roasted squash with the onion wedges and garlic cloves. When the veggies were starting to blacken, I removed them from the oven, boiled them in chicken broth and then pureed them with an immersion blender. Delicious pureed veggie soup in an hour—now that’s hard to beat.

This is the kind of soup you can make with whatever you have on hand, so the proportions in the recipe below are not exact. Experiment and try making the soup with other vegetables: sweet potatoes, pumpkin, butternut squash. And while the soup recipe is still uncomplicated, roasting the veggies renders it both complex and flavorful—in other words, completely worthy of a grown-up’s soup bowl.


1 2-3 pound squash, cut into wedges (I used a Carnival squash)
1 medium onion, cut into wedges
6-8 garlic cloves, papery skins removed
Olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
4-6 cups chicken or vegetable broth

Special equipment: immersion blender (or regular blender or food processor)

Make the Roasted Squash Soup

Place rack in middle of oven and preheat oven to 425°F. Line a large baking dish with aluminum foil and place squash, onions and garlic in baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Stir the vegetables with your hands to evenly coat them with olive oil and salt and pepper. Roast the vegetables in the oven for 30-45 minutes, until squash is tender and the veggies are fragrant and beginning to blacken.

Heat the chicken or vegetable broth in a saucepan on the stove over medium heat. Using a spoon or knife, remove the squash flesh from the skin. Place the squash flesh, onions and garlic into the pan with the broth and simmer until the vegetables are completely cooked through (particularly the onions). Using an immersion blender, carefully blend the vegetables and broth to form a pureed soup. Add broth or water if soup is too thick; continue cooking if soup is too thin. Garnish with fresh herbs.

Thanks to Coco on Roost for sharing the recipe for Roasted Heirloom Cauliflower and Chestnut soup, which heavily inspired this recipe.

October 28, 2010

Three-Bean Turkey Chili + How to Make Your Own Chili Powder

Filed under: dinner, Recipes, soup — Tags: , , — Andrea @ 4:50 pm

Three-Bean Turkey Chili + How to Make Your Own Chili Powder


In September, Sam and I went camping in Yosemite with my sister Laurel and her husband Joe. For dinner on our first night my sister whipped up this delicious Three-Bean Turkey Chili. Food has a tendency to taste more satisfying when you’re camping, but this chili is an exception: it tasted just as delicious at home as when we had it camping. Cocoa powder and cinnamon are the secret ingredients here, infusing the chili with flavors characteristic of mole.

Chili is versatile, so if you don’t have the exact type of beans called for in the recipe, substitute whatever beans you have on hand. Also, ground turkey is often sold in 1 lb. packages, and if you’d rather not buy an extra package to get the extra ½ lb. of meat, skip the extra meat and add another can of beans.


1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 medium onions, chopped
1½ teaspoons dried oregano
1½ teaspoons ground cumin
1½ pounds lean ground turkey
¼ cup chili powder (store-bought or see recipe below)
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1½ teaspoons salt
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes
3 cups beef stock or canned beef broth
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
1 cup fresh or frozen sweet corn kernels
1 15-ounce cans of white beans, rinsed, drained
1 15-ounce cans of black beans, rinsed, drained
1 15-ounce cans of kidney beans, rinsed, drained

Chopped red onion
Chopped fresh cilantro
Plain low-fat yogurt or light sour cream

Make the Chili

Heat oil in large heavy pot over low heat. Add onions; sauté until light brown and tender, about 10 minutes. Add oregano and cumin; stir 1 minute. Increase heat to medium-high. Add turkey; stir until no longer pink, breaking up with back of spoon. Stir in chili powder, bay leaves, cocoa powder, salt and cinnamon. Add tomatoes with their juices, breaking up with back of spoon. Mix in stock and tomato sauce. Bring to boil. Reduce heat; simmer 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add corn and beans to chili and simmer until flavors meld, about 10 minutes longer. Discard bay leaves. Ladle chili into bowls. Pass red onion, cilantro and yogurt separately.

Chili Recipe heavily adapted from

How to Make Your Own Chili Powder

When I began making this Three-Bean Turkey Chili, I had everything except the chili powder. Chili powder is a big part of Chili, but between all the ground, dried and fresh chiles in our house, I couldn’t bring myself to walk a block in the pouring rain to buy chili powder at the corner grocery store. I knew chili powder is a blend of spices, but I wasn’t sure which ones. A quick Google search gave me the answers and provided a simple recipe for chili powder. And guess what—I had all the ingredients in the cupboard.

Combine in a small bowl:
2 teaspoons paprika
4 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons oregano
4 teaspoons garlic powder (I used fresh minced garlic)

While this makes slightly less than the ¼ cup of chili powder called for in the recipe, I’m fairly certain it’s a good deal spicier than commercial chili powder because it resulted in a spicy Chili.

Chili Powder recipe from

October 12, 2010

Pumpkin Tortilla Soup

Filed under: dinner, Recipes, soup, vegetables — Tags: , , — Andrea @ 6:32 pm

Pumpkin Tortilla Soup

pumpkin tortilla soup

For an unconventional twist on traditional pumpkin soup, dig into a bowlful of this hearty Pumpkin Tortilla Soup. Spicy chiles and corn tortillas infuse the pumpkin with bright, piquant flavors. Topped with crunchy tortilla crisps and chunks of avocado, this distinctly autumn version of tortilla soup is a satisfying way to temper the chill of fall evenings.

Serves 6-8


12 (6-inch) corn tortillas
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium white onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup finely chopped cilantro, plus more sprigs for garnish
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Chile pequins, other dried hot peppers, or cayenne pepper to taste
1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree or canned pumpkin
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
5 cups unsalted vegetable stock
1/2 teaspoon salt
Vegetable oil for deep-frying
1-2 ripe avocados, peeled, pitted, and cubed

Make the Soup

  1. Cut 6 of the tortillas into 1/2-inch squares.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add onion and cook until soft, about 4-6 minutes. Add chopped tortillas, cook until tortillas are soft. Stir constantly and add more oil if the tortillas are sticking. Add garlic, cook 30 seconds.
  3. Add cumin and crushed peppers or cayenne and sauté for another minute.
  4. Add pumpkin, tomatoes, vegetable stock, and salt and stir to combine. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for one hour.

Make the Tortilla Crisps

  1. While the soup is simmering, cut the remaining 6 tortillas in half and then into 1/4-inch-wide strips. Heat ½ inch of vegetable oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat until very hot but not smoking. Fry tortilla strips in two batches until crisp and light golden (about a minute). Using a slotted spoon, transfer tortilla strips to towels to drain.

To serve, ladle soup into bowls and garnish with tortilla strips, avocado, and cilantro.

Recipe from “the kitchn” October 31, 2008.

November 6, 2009

Hearty Chicken Vegetable Soup

Filed under: Recipes, soup, vegetables — Tags: , , — Andrea @ 5:18 pm
chicken vegetable soupEvery day my inbox gets flooded email newsletters. There are a few, however, that I secretly love to read. One of those is the Epicurious Recipe Flash, which gives a sneak peek at Epicurious’ new recipes and featured articles. Yesterday the “6 Foods to Fight the Flu” guide caught my eye. Sam and I decided to make the Hearty Chicken Vegetable Soup featured in the guide. Like many of the people who made comments on the recipee, we decided to make a few changes of our own: we switched the amounts of chicken broth and water; added a chopped potato, a glug of Marsala wine, plenty of fresh herbs; and Sam insisted we add diced jalepeno to give it kick (and I’m glad we did!). The recipe below reflects our changes, but feel free to change it however you like.


Hearty Chicken and Vegetable Soup


Serves 4-6

  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 3/4 cups water
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 medium carrots, cut diagonally into 1/3″ thick slices
  • 2 medium celery ribs, cut crosswise into 1/3″ thick slices
  • 1 medium potato, cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • 2 tablespoons Marsala wine
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
  • diced jalepeno for garnish


  1. Bring water and broth to a simmer in a 2- to 3-quart saucepan. Add chicken and simmer, uncovered, 6 minutes. Remove pan from heat and cover, then let stand until chicken is cooked through, about 15 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate and cool 10 minutes. Reserve poaching liquid, uncovered.
  2. While chicken is poaching, cook onion in oil in a 4-quart heavy pot, covered, over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened but not browned, about 6 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add carrots, celery, salt, and pepper and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Add poaching liquid and marsala wine and simmer, covered, until vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat.
  3. While vegetables are cooking, shred chicken into 1/4-inch-wide strips (about 1 inch long). When vegetables are done simmering, stir chicken into soup along with parsley, herbs and jalepeno.

Recipe adapted from Epicurious. Read the Flu Foods Guide.

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