Fresh Cannellini Bean Salad

Shelling Cannellini Beans

In summer, making beans doesn’t have to require planning the day before and cooking for long periods of time. And, no, I’m not talking about popping open a can. These fresh cannellini beans were easy to prepare and the uses are endless. I decided to use half to make a bean salad and saved the other half for another use (or, since it was so delicious, maybe more of the same) later this week.

I’m a big fan of beans but rarely cook them because they require soaking the night before and then a fairly long cook time on the stove. So, I was very excited to discover that Good Eggs is currently selling fresh cannellini beans from Dirty Girl Produce in Santa Cruz. I quickly signed up for two pounds (comes out to about 2 cups shelled) in this week’s delivery and now wish I had purchased more!

One of my favorite parts of preparing fresh beans (and peas too) is the shelling process. It’s simple and relaxing. In some ways, it reminds me of knitting or other repetitive tasks that can become almost meditative. Sometimes, I shell them while watching TV or chatting on the phone. Other times, it’s a welcome break from screen time and an opportunity for some quiet reflection.

Boil Cannellini Beans

After giving the beans a quick rinse in the colander, set them on the stove, with some water, over medium to medium-high heat to just bring them up to a boil. Once boiling, lower the temperature and simmer them for about 20-30 minutes. Cooking time will vary based on the freshness of the bean (if it’s older, it’ll be drier and take longer) and also on personal preference.

Cooked Cannellini Beans

I tend to like my beans soft and squishy. So, I cook them until I see some of them start to break apart. After straining in a colander, they’re ready to use!

Other Bean Salad Ingredients

While the beans cook, you’ll have more than enough time to prepare the other bean salad ingredients:

  • half of a small red onion, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, pressed or chopped
  • a small handful of cilantro (basil or parsley work great too), chopped
  • 15-20 “sweet 100” or other small cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1 stalk of celery, chopped
  • a generous pour of olive oil
  • a few splashes of red wine vinegar
  • a liberal sprinkle of salt
  • cayenne pepper, to taste

and, of course,

  • 1 cup of cooked cannellini beans

I like to stir the beans in with the rest of the ingredients while they’re still hot. I’ve noticed that this helps the flavors combine faster and also helps to mellow the raw garlic and onion flavors. These quantities yield enough for two people enjoying this as a main course or for four, as a side dish. Serve at room temperature with some toasted or grilled ciabatta bread.

Cannellini Bean Salad

Feasting on Fresh Figs

Kadota Figs

I grew up eating dried chewy figs from Greece or Turkey that were sold in small pressed round wheels. It wasn’t until much later that I discovered the pleasure of a fresh ripe fig. These kadota figs from a local farm require no special preparation or fancy pairing. You could have some creamy camembert and toast or some nicely aged manchego with these gems but, really, even a knife is optional…

kadota fig

 

Blackberry-Lemon Sour Cream Cake

Blackberry-Lemon Sour Cream Cake

It’s the season to bake with berries! I couldn’t find a recipe I liked for today and so I decided to improvise my own.

  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached white flour, 1 tablespoon for the berries
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 3 extra-large eggs
  • 3 large lemons (grate zest and juice lemons, set aside separately)
  • 3/4 cup sugar for cake, 4 teaspoons sugar for syrup
  • 1 cup fresh blackberries

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a 9.5″ glass baking dish (or other type of baking pan of your choosing). Rinse the blackberries, shake off excess water, and lightly coat with 1 tablespoon of flour. Set these aside.

Whisk together the olive oil, sour cream, eggs, lemon zest, and sugar. Many people like to combine the dry ingredients and then incorporate them into wet. I prefer to wash only one bowl and have not noticed a difference. So, I encourage you to just mix the salt and baking powder into the wet ingredients and then, lastly, whisk in the flour until combined.

After the batter is ready, gently fold in the blackberries and pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish. Bake for 50-60 minutes or until lightly browned on top and cooked in the center.

While the cake bakes, cook the reserved sugar and lemon juice in a small pot on the stove until the sugar has fully dissolved and then set it aside. After removing the cake from the oven, pierce the top in several spots with a toothpick. This will allow the lemon syrup to soak into the cake more consistently. Pour the lemon syrup slowly over the top and, if you see it pool on the edges, lift the cake slightly to allow it to drip beneath the cake. Use as much or as little as you like. My lemons were particularly juicy and so I did not use all of the lemon syrup. In fact, in future attempts, I may omit it entirely because the zest really makes it lemony enough for me.

Allow the cake to cool, slice, and serve with a generous dollop of freshly whipped cream.

Blackberry-Lemon Sour Cream Cake 2

Heritage Bacon and Veggie Scramble

Heritage Bacon and Veggie Scramble

At the James house, this is one of our most decadent breakfasts. We don’t eat bacon very often but, when we do, it’s like this.

Start by chopping and cooking a couple slices of heritage bacon, starting with a cold pan (I like using my “Green Pan” for this because of it’s non-stick surface). This bacon is meatier, thicker, and a little more chewy than conventional bacon because the heritage breed pigs are spending their time foraging in the forest instead of eating feed in cramped pens. It’s tougher but giving it some TLC by slowly cooking it on low heat softens it up and the flavor is unmatched.

While waiting, scramble some eggs with sea salt, cayenne pepper, and turmeric. After the bacon is just about ready, drop in some chopped red onion and shiitake mushroom caps, flipping them a few times while they cook. Once the mushrooms are soft, add a couple handfuls of raw spinach and stir until the spinach is completely wilted.

At this point, it’s time to pour the egg mixture over the veggies and bacon. Resist the urge to mix! Instead, let the bottom set and brown a little before folding it over. It’s completely fine for some of it to break apart but letting it set and brown makes a big difference for texture and flavor. After you’ve flipped the pieces and there isn’t any more egg liquid visible, take it off the stove and serve it with hot buttered toast.

Summertime Panzanella

Panzanella

This is our summertime go-to dinner. This time of year, the farmers’ market is teeming with fresh produce, the tomatoes are ripe and oh-so-juicy, and the weather is hot enough that you really don’t want to turn on the stove or oven. Even though we have these salads all the time, my husband basically begs for panzanella anytime he sees tomatoes on the counter. Tonight he said, “it looks really good and it tastes a lot better than it looks.”

Tonight’s panzanella featured heirloom tomatoes, avocado, red onion, cilantro, red radishes, crusty “country” bread from Tartine Bakery, a generous pour of olive oil, a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, and a pinch of salt. After mixing these ingredients and letting the bread soak up the juices from the bottom of the bowl, I sprinkled some Point Reyes blue cheese on top.

One of my favorite things about panzanella salad is that you can make it with any combination of fresh produce that suits you. Other ingredients that often appear in my summertime panzanellas are: cucumbers, yellow peppers, raw fennel, scallions, basil, sheep’s milk feta cheese, hard boiled eggs, celery, green garlic, and anything else that appealed to me at the farmers’ market and made its way into my refrigerator or onto my counter.

What might you put in your summertime panzanella?

Yellow wax beans with heirloom tomatoes, dill, and heritage bacon

Yellow wax beans with heirloom tomatoes, dill, and heritage bacon

An unexpected breakfast is served!

I woke up this morning to a squishy tomato on the counter and realized that, while the larger heirloom tomatoes could wait, these fun-shaped cherry heirloom tomatoes had to be cooked ASAP. Luckily, I had also gotten gorgeous yellow wax beans, fresh dill, and heritage bacon in my Good Eggs order. I’ll probably be mentioning Good Eggs a lot in my posts because they’re such an excellent source of local/seasonal produce, meat, fish, dairy, etc.

Even a colander full of wet produce seems picture-worthy when everything is so fresh and lovely!

Yellow wax beans, heirloom tomatoes, dill

 

Heirloom tomatoes – a good place to start

Heirloom Tomatoes

The perfectionist in me wants to start with a complex and impressive recipe or, at the very least, something unique. However, the truth is that one of the main reasons I want to start this project is to express my gratitude for the produce available to me here in the Bay Area. So, these heirloom tomatoes are a great place to start the celebration of local and seasonal food.

My other goal in creating this site is to connect with other foodies and home chefs while having a place to share my own creativity through food and photography. Many friends have flattered me with suggestions of starting a food blog or writing a cookbook. I think I’ll start with this simple page and see where it goes.

I’m thinking that some of these tomatoes will end up in a breakfast panzanella salad and the rest will be roasted with some golden wax beans and dill. What would you do with 3 lbs. of these beauties?