As we piled up yesterday on cheese, plums, white peaches, yogurt, garlic, potatoes, maple sugar candy, bread, and other goodies at the Farmers' market, I spotted what I had been looking for: fresh cranberry beans. If you're a typical grocery store shopper, chances are you haven't seen these beauties. They have different shades of speckled pink and white pods and are very appealing to the eye. (See photos here and here).
We approached the kiosk and started up a friendly chitchat with a fellow buyer who had a neat handwoven bag. To our right was another lady in line after us, who quickly came to our help as we wondered out loud how we would cook the beans. She was a beautiful woman with dark hair and a loose flax-type striped shirt carrying her market basket. She seemed almost whimsical and maybe had a temperament of someone I imagine would hang out with Alice Waters. We were enthusiastically and poetically guided through the shelling of the beans, and instructed to maybe watch some TV as we did so, then cook the beans with some garlic and olive oil… and I can't remember much more because what had really trapped my attention was her passion about the beans. As a fellow foodie, I understand where this passion comes from; food is not only a means to survive- it's a huge part of our lives.
I was intrigued by her enthusiasm and couldn't wait to get into the kitchen to try the beans in a recipe I had been dreaming up. Right was Mrs. Market Lady about these beauties; not only were they beautiful on the inside and out, they were downright delicious. Here's to ending summer and beginning fall on the right note.
Roasted stuffed tomatoes with quinoa, feta, and fresh cranberry beans
Makes 9 medium stuffed tomatoes, serving about 3 (My family are pretty light eaters; we each ate about 2)
1 TBSP olive oil
9 medium homegrown or local tomatoes
1 cup cooked quinoa
1 cup shelled and cooked fresh organic cranberry beans (see note on how to prepare)
½ cup feta cheese (I used tomato & basil-flavored)
Handful of sunflower seeds
2 TBSP finely chopped fresh basil
Salt and pepper
Delicata squash seed oil (see here), for serving, or other specialty oil (optional)
Grease a 9-inch square baking pan with the TBSP of olive oil and sprinkle lightly with salt. Preheat the oven to 400F with the rack in the middle.
Cut a circle in the top of the tomatoes and scoop out the flesh so that the tomato resembles a little bowl. Scoop out the seeds and juice, but be careful to not make the tomato walls too thin.
In a mixing bowl, combine the quinoa, cooked beans, feta, sunflower seeds, and basil. Season to your liking with salt and pepper. Place a few tablespoons of the quinoa mixture in each tomato and press gently downward to make a dense filling that will support the shape of the tomatoes as they cook. Place each filled tomato in the greased baking pan, and top each one with a little Parmesan cheese, followed by a dash of paprika.
Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes, then turn on the broiler and broil (carefully watching) for 5 minutes. Turn the oven off and let the tomatoes sit for 5 minutes in the oven. Serve the tomatoes drizzled with the delicata squash seed oil, on a bed of greens if you'd like!
A note on how to prepare the fresh cranberry beans (we used one small farmers' market basket full, which yielded about 1 ½ cups, of which we used 1 cup in this recipe): To shell the beans, snap off the ends of the pod and then run a knife or fingernail down the spine to open. Scoop the beans out and discard the pod. Bring a 3-4 quart pot of water to a boil. Add the beans and reduce the heat slightly, so a simmer is maintained. Simmer for about 25 minutes. Taste one to see if it's done- you'll know when they no longer taste mealy, they still have a dense-ish texture, but are not al dente or hard.