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Heirloom Tomatoes with Shell Beans Vinaigrette

Heirloom Tomatoes with Shell Beans Vinaigrette

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Recipe Preparation

  • Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion; sauté 4 to 5 minutes. Add garlic, bay leaf, and 1/2 teaspoon thyme; stir 1 minute. Add peas and broth; bring to boil. Cover with lid slightly ajar; reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer until peas are soft, stirring occasionally, about 25 minutes. Drain. Transfer to large microwave-safe bowl.

  • Whisk vinegar and 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil in bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Pour over warm peas; toss. DO AHEAD Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and chill. Bring to room temperature before continuing.

  • Stir basil and remaining 1 tablespoon thyme into peas. Discard bay leaf. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

  • Arrange tomato slices on platter. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Spoon warm or room-temperature peas over tomatoes.

Reviews Section

Heirloom Tomatoes: 24 Chefs Share Their Favorites

Sure, the end of August signals that summer is almost over, but it also heralds the height of heirloom tomato season across the nation. There are a seemingly endless number of varietals of heirloom tomatoes from which to choose, including Black Krim, Hungarian Heart, and more (and endless debate as to what constitutes an heirloom tomato, which we won’t get into here). To narrow down the field we asked chefs to share their favorites and showcase how they’re serving what is arguably the most delicious ingredient of this year’s harvest.

Philippe Bertineau, Benoit, New York, New York
“Deliciously flavored Sun Gold, Red Currant, and Green Zebra heirloom tomatoes pack more sweetness.”
Order them in: The heirloom tomatoes from Eckerton Hill Farm with red onion, basil, sherry vinegar, and olive oil.

Eric Brennan, Post 390, Boston, Massachusetts
“We are now getting our heirloom tomatoes from Kimball Fruit Farm in Pepperell, Massachusetts. Owners Carl and Marie Hills grow some great tomatoes, especially the Black Prince, Pink Brandywine, and Green Zebra. After they did some research on other areas that were growing heirlooms, they started their own in 2004 and soon became the award-winning growers of heirloom tomatoes and cherry tomatoes in the state.”
Order them in: Kimball Fruit Farm’s heirloom tomatoes + charred sweet corn with griddled halloumi, fig balsamic, and purslane pesto.

Matt Christianson, Urban Farmer, Portland, Oregon
“At Urban Farmer, we grow heirloom tomatoes on the restaurants’ rooftop garden. My favorite variety is the Indigo Blue Berries tomato because of its rich, dark color and because they are high in anthocyanins, which protect against a myriad of human diseases.”
Order them in: The heirloom tomato salad.

Kevin Cuddihee, TWO, Chicago, Illinois
“In-season tomatoes are one of my favorite ingredients, green zebras have a great natural acidity that goes great with burrata, and the red onion basil vinaigrette rounds out the dish nicely. We like to let the ingredient shine on the plate and in- season heirloom tomatoes are the perfect star.”
Order them in: The Green Zebra tomatoes with burrata cheese, Vidalia onions, and red onion-basil vinaigrette.

Laurence Edelman, Left Bank, New York, New York
“Any heirloom tomato that is perfectly ripe is going to be the best tomato you’ve ever had. There are a few that are particularly beautiful. There’s an heirloom tomato that is shaped like a heart called Hungarian Heart. It’s a good mix of flesh and juice and they’re really big and cool looking. Sometimes they are so big that one tomato could be a light meal.”
Order them in: The heirloom tomato salad with Spanish goat cheese and marinated eggplant.

Michael Ferraro, Delicatessen, New York, New York
“The Cherokee Purple are my favorite because they’re very plump, juicy, and large in size. Plus, they’re very flavorful and taste a bit less acidic than other heirloom tomato varietals.”
Order them in: The heirloom tomato + burrata salad with green olive pesto and focaccia croutons.

Michael Goodman, Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas, Las Vegas, Nevada
“I like the versatility of Brandywine tomatoes. This sweet tomato has a pinkish flesh and a wonderful acidity that is great for salads. Seared or grilled, they work very well with a nice, cold pressed extra virgin olive and sea salt and paired with a sexy white wine.”
Order them in: Zucchini “spaghetti” with zucchini pesto and heirloom tomato tartare.

Todd Kelly, Orchids at Palm Court, Cincinnati, Ohio
“I prefer the smaller Black Cherry heirloom tomatoes because they are sweet and juicy with a more moderate acidity, making them very versatile. “
Order them in: The heirloom tomato and mozzarella “balloon” caprese salad with saffron tomato gelée, pickled onion, arugula, and shallot lavosh.

Michael Kornick, mk, Chicago, Illinois
“I love Brandywine tomatoes because of their rich flavor. Brandywines have a balanced amount of acid and are thick and meaty with a delicious juice. Their skin peels easily for quickly cooked pasta sauces and with freshly grilled fish.”
Order them in: The colorful heirloom tomato salad with watermelon, pineapple, mint, oil-cured olive, and a buttermilk crisp.

Chris Macchia, Labriola Ristorante, Chicago, Illinois
“My favorite type of heirloom tomato is the Cherokee Purple because it has fantastic tomato flavor—and of course, it’s fun to say!”
Order them in: The caprese salad with tomatoes, pesto powder, heirloom tomato sorbet, buffalo mozzarella, and basil foam.

Aaron Martinez, Intro, Chicago, Illinois
“The Sun Gold tomato is always consistent in flavor and texture. Very sweet tomato and not mealy. I chose this tomato for a melon dish because of its sweetness that pairs so well with the seaweed-infused tomato water. The savory and sweet combination really balance each other out.”
Order them in: The tomato and summer melon plate.

Tory Miller, L’Etoile, Madison, Wisconsin
“We use a large variety of heirlooms for this dish, but my choices this year are Cherokee Green, Cherokee Purple, Yellow Brandywine, Jaune Flamme, and Aunt Ruby’s German Green. I pick tomatoes with low acid and small seed to meat ratios. Then, all you have to do is add salt.”
Order them in: Part of the seven-course tasting menu, Miller serves Snug Haven Farm heirloom tomatoes with baby cucumber, radishes, peekytoe crab, and pine nuts.

Jeremy Nolen, Whetstone Tavern, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
“My favorite type of heirloom tomato is the Brandywine. Growing up in Berks County, Pennsylvania, there have been heirloom tomato plants and seeds available since I was a little kid, and my parents always grew heirlooms and that tomato was one of the ones I remembered the most. It has such a great tomato flavor to it.”
Order them in: The “burratina,” featuring heirloom tomato, burrata, olives, caper berry, basil, and garlic toast.

Jon Oh, Scarpetta, New York, New York
“I’ve never met a tomato I didn’t like. I don’t have a specific favorite variety of heirloom tomatoes, but I use the large heirloom mix from Eckerton Hill Farms. Tim Stark produces top-notch tomatoes for New York City restaurants and his product has become a staple in my kitchens.”
Order them in: The burrata with heirloom tomato, black garlic, and eggplant.

Viet Pham, Ray’s and Stark Bar at LACMA, Los Angeles, California
“Brandywine and Marvel Striped tomatoes are so sweet, juicy, and hearty that you should not do anything to manipulate the flavors.”
Order them in: Heirloom tomatoes, burrata, “everything bagel crumble,” basil, garden arugula, and Saba.

Ben Pollinger, Oceana, New York, New York
“I really enjoy the Cherokee Purple heirloom tomatoes. They’re a great deep red-purple, and quite big for heirlooms. They are also meaty tomatoes and have a robust, full tomato flavor. “
Order them in: The heirloom tomato salad served with basil panna cotta and roasted yellow peppers.

Wes Shaw, Presidio Social Club, San Francisco, California
“My favorite type of heirloom tomato is Cherokee Purple. It’s sweet, but not too sweet, and the acidity makes it taste just like a tomato should. They’re a dark red color with deep purple running through them and are always a crowd pleaser.”
Order them in: The heirloom tomato salad.

DJ Tangalin, JRDN, San Diego, California
“The star of this salad is the Brandywine tomato. It’s my favorite because its true tomato-y flavor just screams summer. Plus, it has great acidity that helps the zucchini sott’olio pop.”
Order them in: The heirloom tomato salad with burrata cheese, zucchini sott’olio, black garlic, and green goddess dressing.

Louis Tikaram, E.P. + L.P., West Hollywood, California
“I personally love the Green Zebra heirloom tomato varietal. They look amazing, and I love their firm texture and acidity. They’re the star attraction in my summer persimmon and tomato salad.”
Order them in: The vegan persimmon + tomato salad featuring heirloom tomato, ginger, persimmon, cilantro, and black bean.

Danny Trace, Brennan’s of Houston, Houston, Texas
“I love the heirloom tomatoes from Covey Rise, a farm in Louisiana, especially the Cherokee Purple, Zebra Stripe, and the Louisiana Creole (“Celebrity”) tomatoes. The Celebrity is a beautiful, red, medium-sized fruit, and the flavor is just pure tomato.”
Order them in: The fried soft-shell crab dish, with crab atop slices of the tomato (pictured below) a red fish Provencal, in which the grilled red fish is served over sliced tomatoes with marinated white bean relish and the five tomato salad with fried green, cherry, and grape tomatoes, avocado, and aged balsamic.

Ari Weiswasser, Glen Ellen Star, Glen Ellen, California
“We have a bounty of dry-farmed heirloom tomatoes at our disposal from the Benziger Winery’s biodynamic garden just minutes from the restaurant. They grow Green Zebra and Purple Prims, as well as Sun Gold cherry tomatoes.
Order them in: Gazpacho with tomatoes, cucumber, red bell pepper, and basil with olive oil and baby basil also from Benziger’s (pictured below), and the housemade merguez sausage with butter and tomato marmalade-glazed cranberry beans.

Niki Star Weyler, Mesa, Costa Mesa, California
“My favorite tomato is the Cherokee Purple because of its deep flavor, beautiful colors, and firm-yet-velvety texture.“
Order them in: The CA BLT salad with heirloom tomatoes, crispy bacon, Bibb lettuce dressed in a white balsamic vinaigrette, blue cheese, and avocado.

Brad Wise, Draft, San Diego, California
“I like to use the Oaxacan Jewel variety because the melon undertone is a good match with a fruity olive oil, and the rich yellow color makes for a beautiful presentation.”
Order them in: The caprese salad with burrata cheese, heirloom tomatoes, and olive oil.

Martin Woesle, Mille Fleurs, Rancho Santa Fe, California
“Cherokee Purple and Green Zebra are my favorite heirloom tomatoes. I love to use them because they are visually appealing, firm but juicy, and sweet with the perfect dose of acidity.”
Order them in: The tomato tower with heirloom tomatoes, grilled eggplant, red onion, basil, Greek olive oil, and aged balsamic vinegar.

What do you think is the most delicious type of tomato – and how do you like it served? Tell us here or over on Facebook, G+, or Twitter. Then, book a table to feast on tomatoes while there’s still time left in the growing season.

Summer Pasta Salad Recipe

Orecchiette, which translates from the Italian to "little ears" is pasta the size of a thumbprint and shaped like a cupped hand, perfect for catching bits of flavor so that every bite of this pasta sings with lemon, garlic and mint. The pasta can be assembled ahead of time, the dressing kept in a separate jar, the garnishes on the side and everything tossed together at the picnic site before serving.


  • 8 ounces orecchiette pasta or other small shell pasta
  • Salt
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for tossing the pasta
  • Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 pint mixed baby heirloom tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1 head frisée, coarsely chopped
  • 8 ounces cooked or canned cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 Tbsp. hazelnuts, toasted and chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. torn mint leaves
  • Shaved Parmesan cheese for garnish


Cook the pasta in a pot of boiling, salted water until tender but firm to the bite, about 5 minutes. Drain, transfer to a large bowl, toss with a splash of olive oil to coat, then place in the freezer for a couple of minutes to cool.

Make the vinaigrette by whisking the olive oil with the lemon zest and juice, the shallot and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Add the tomatoes, frisée and beans to the pasta and dress lightly with the vinaigrette. Garnish with the hazelnuts, mint and cheese.

From A Simple Feast by Diana Yen, © 2014 by the Jewels of New York Group, LLC. Reprinted by arrangement with Roost Books, an imprint of Shambhala Publications Inc., Boston, MA.

This is a simple and sweet vinaigrette that works well in any dish that contains a soft cheese.


  • 1 tbsp white truffle oil
  • 2 tbsp champagne vinegar
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and black pepper to taste


1. Add all ingredients to a small bowl.

2. Whisk well to combine flavors.

3. Adjust salt and black pepper as needed to achieve the right flavor.

  • Romano Beans
  • Savoy Spinach
  • Baby Broccoli
  • French Breakfast Radishes
  • Wild Arugula
  • Sierra Gold Potatoes
  • Herbs – Sage, Thyme, Arugula, Tarragon, Oregano
  • Mixed Heirloom Tomatoes
  • Blue Lake Beans
  • Strawberries

Recipe: Heirloom Tomatoes, Cannellini Beans and Snap Peas and more

Note: Crisp crunch and beautiful colors will pull your guests to the side of the plate where this salad sits. The salad, minus its basil and goat cheese, can be refrigerated a day in advance. From Raquel Pelzel.

• 12 oz. (about 2 medium) ripe heirloom tomatoes, hulled and cut into bite-size pieces

• 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

• 1/2 tsp. salt or 1 tsp. kosher salt

• 6 oz. snap peas, ends trimmed and pods thinly sliced on a bias (about 1 c.)

• 1 1/2 c. drained and rinsed canned white beans, such as cannellini (from a 15-oz. can)

• 1/3 c. fresh basil leaves, stacked, rolled and thinly sliced crosswise (chiffonade), or more as needed

Combine the tomatoes, oil and salt in a mixing bowl, stirring gently to incorporate.

Add the snap peas, beans and most of the basil, then crumble the goat cheese over the top. Give the salad a gentle stir, sprinkle with the remaining basil and serve.

Nutrition information per serving:

Calories 210 Fat 11 g Sodium 380 mg

Carbohydrates 19 g Saturated fat 3 g Total sugars 4 g

Protein 9 g Cholesterol 5 mg Dietary fiber 6 g

Note: Avocado makes a creamy and pretty mayo alternative in this 10-minute recipe, letting the taste of the crabmeat shine through. Although this is a no-cook recipe, a butter-toasted bun wouldn’t be heresy. From Raquel Pelzel.

• Flesh of 1 ripe Hass avocado

• 2 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice, divided

• 1/2 tsp. salt or 1 tsp. kosher salt, divided

• 8 oz. cooked lump crabmeat, picked over to remove any cartilage or shell

• 2 tbsp. thinly sliced chives or green onions

• 4 hot dog buns or brioche buns, preferably split on top

• Small green leaf lettuce leaves

• 12 sprigs fresh cilantro, for garnish

Combine the avocado, 1 tablespoon lemon juice and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl. Use a fork to mash the mixture until it is semi-smooth, with some chunks.

Gently fold in the crabmeat, the chives or green onions and the remaining citrus juice and salt.

Line the buns with the lettuce leaves. Divide the avocado-crab mixture evenly among them. Top each portion with cilantro sprigs. Serve immediately.

Nutrition information per serving:

Calories 240 Fat 9 g Sodium 670 mg

Carbohydrates 29 g Saturated fat 2 g Total sugars 6 g

Protein 16 g Cholesterol 75 mg Dietary fiber 3 g

Cauliflower ‘Couscous’ With Herbs

Note: A quick side dish gets even quicker when you can pick up the cauliflower already broken down to a couscous consistency — typically found these days in the refrigerated or frozen produce section. The dressing components go right into the salad. From Raquel Pelzel.

• 1/2 medium head of cauliflower, separated into florets (or 10 oz. frozen/defrosted cauliflower couscous see Note)

• 1 medium red bell pepper, halved, seeded and finely chopped

• 1 medium cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeds scooped out and cucumber finely chopped

• 3/4 c. fresh herbs, such as basil, cilantro, fennel fronds, mint, parsley or tarragon, or a combination thereof

• 3 green onions, white and light-green parts, finely chopped

• 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice, or more as needed

• 1/2 tsp. salt or 1 tsp. kosher salt, or more as needed

• 3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

• 1/3 c. roasted, salted sunflower seeds

Place the cauliflower florets in a food processor pulse for 6 or 8 (1-second) pulses, until they are fine-textured and look like couscous. Transfer to a mixing bowl.

Add the bell pepper, cucumber, herbs, green onions, mirin, lemon juice, coriander and the salt, stirring to incorporate. Add the oil and stir until everything is well seasoned taste to make sure, and adjust as needed.

Stir in most of the sunflower seeds. Serve with the remaining sunflower seeds sprinkled over the top.

Nutrition information per serving:

Calories 200 Fat 16 g Sodium 380 mg

Carbohydrates 12 g Saturated fat 2 g Total sugars 5 g

Protein 4 g Cholesterol 0 mg Dietary fiber 4 g

Lentils With Hot-Smoked Salmon

Note: Canned lentils are a convenience item that merits co-star attention here. Serve this spiky-savory salad as a main dish or side. Hot-smoked salmon has a flakier, more “roasted” texture than cold-smoked, lox-style salmon, though in a pinch, the latter works just fine. Here, it can be flaked apart or chopped and then folded into the salad, or you can simply serve it alongside the lentils. From Raquel Pelzel.

• 1 (15-oz.) can lentils, drained and rinsed

• 3 radishes, trimmed and cut into thin rounds

• 1 tbsp. capers, drained and coarsely chopped

• 2 tbsp. finely chopped fresh dill

• 1/4 tsp. salt or 1/2 tsp. kosher salt

• 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

• 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

• 8 oz. hot-smoked salmon, skin and pinbones discarded (see Note)

Combine the lentils, radishes, capers and dill in a mixing bowl. Drizzle with the vinegar, then season with the salt and pepper, stirring to incorporate. Add the oil and toss to coat.

Cut the salmon into 4 equal portions, or flake the salmon into the lentil salad and toss gently to incorporate, then divide among individual plates.

Nutrition information per serving with kosher salt:

Calories 210 Fat 9 g Sodium 770 mg

Carbohydrates 15 g Saturated fat 2 g Total sugars 2 g

Protein 17 g Cholesterol 15 mg Dietary fiber 8 g

No-Bake Coconutter Fudge Bars

Note: Chopped dried cherries enhance the chocolaty flavor and richness of this easy dessert or snack. The chocolate does need to be melted in the microwave, so we can’t honestly call this a no-cook recipe. But making it won’t heat up your kitchen, and that’s the goal. The assembled bars are easier to handle with at least 20 minutes of chill time. Store or pack them in a single layer wrapped well (once they are firm), they can be frozen for up to 1 week. From “Sheet Pan Suppers Meatless: 100 Surprising Vegetarian Meals Straight From the Oven,” by Raquel Pelzel.

• 1 1/2 c. roasted, salted peanuts

• 1/4 c. Dutch-processed cocoa powder (unsweetened)

• 1/8 tsp. salt or 1/4 tsp. kosher salt

• 2 tbsp. creamy peanut butter, optional

• 8 oz. semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

• 1 1/2 tbsp. liquefied coconut oil

• Flaked sea salt, for garnish, optional

Combine the peanuts, cocoa powder and salt in a food processor pulse about 10 times (1-second pulses), until finely ground. Add the cherries pulse about 6 times, until you can squeeze the mixture together without it breaking apart easily. If it seems loose, add the peanut butter and pulse to bind and incorporate.

Line a quarter baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread the peanut mixture in the pan. Place a sheet of plastic wrap on top of the peanut mixture, and, using the bottom of a measuring cup, press it into a solid and even layer. Freeze until set, about 15 minutes.

Place the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high in 20-second increments, stirring between each, until the chocolate is completely melted this should take a total of about 1 1/2 minutes.

Whisk in the coconut milk and coconut oil until smooth, then pour the mixture over the frozen peanut-mixture base, spreading it in an even layer. Sprinkle with flaky salt, if using, and freeze for at least 20 minutes before cutting into 24 squares.

Heirloom Tomatoes with Shell Beans Vinaigrette - Recipes


1 package (17.3 oz) frozen puff pastry, thawed overnight in the refrigerator

8 ounce container onion and chive cream cheese spread, room temperature

2 pounds heirloom tomatoes in a variety of colors and sizes (the more, the better)

garlic infused olive oil (or extra virgin olive oil), for drizzling

fleur de sel (French sea salt) and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

10-20 fresh basil leaves (depending on their sizer)

Preheat oven to 400F, place rack in center position, and line a half sheet pan with parchment paper.

Unfold the first puff pastry sheet onto the parchment paper and gently press with a rolling pin to flatten fold lines (keep in mind, the sheet pan will hold 1 and 2/3 sheets of puff pastry side-by-side).

Repeat with the 2nd puff pastry sheet (trim away 1/3 of the 2nd pastry sheet and reserve for another use) place both pastry sheets as close together as possible without overlapping and use water to gently glue and press the two pieces to gather to form one large pastry sheet.

Use a for or dough docker to poke holes over the surface of the puff pastry place sheet pan in fridge to allow the pastry to chill while you prepare the tomatoes.

Slice tomatoes into 1/4-inch slices (a variety of colors and diameters look very nice on the tart (don’t worry if the seeds and jelly fall out of the slices).

Remove puff pastry from refrigerator stir the onion and chive cream cheese to soften and use an offset spatula to spread an even layer all over the prepared puff pastry, leaving a thin border around the edges.

Artfully arrange the tomatoes slices on the tart - slight overlapping is okay, but try to keep a single layer for the most part (I like to start with the largest slices, then fill in with smaller ones).

Brush or sprits tomato slices with oil just before placing the tart in the hot oven bake for 20-25 minutes until pastry edges puff nicely and turn golden brown.

Remove tart from oven and allow to cool for at least 30 minutes (or up to several hours).

Just before serving, brush entire tart with a little more oil (tomatoes and pastry), sprinkle tomatoes with fleur de sel (French sea salt), freshly ground black pepper, and top with fresh basil leaves (basil will discolor if placed on warm tart) slice with a sharp knife and serve.

8 Secrets For a Moist & Juicy Roast Turkey

Beans—both string and shell—give substance and texture to summer dishes. Blanched string beans tossed with sliced onions and tomatoes or with pasta and pesto make colorful, tasty starters. Fresh shell beans make a light, satisfying main dish, tossed with cherry tomatoes, shallots, chopped basil, and a lemon vinaigrette, or with parsley, garlic, and olive oil, served over hot fettuccine. And both string and shell beans are essential for a true Provençal soupe au pistou, simmered along with other summer vegetables and served with a spoonful of pesto in each bowl.

Different varieties from the same species

Both string beans and shell beans come from the same plant species (Phaseolus vulgaris) but from different varieties within that species. String beans are whole, immature pods, while shell beans are the seeds inside more mature pods. Any string bean variety will produce seeds that can be shelled, but the pods of most shell bean varieties are too tough to be eaten.

You’ll find good string beans from early summer until frost. The peak season for shell beans is midsummer into fall however, fava beans grown during late spring and early summer have the best flavor.

Strike is a particularly tasty long, round string bean similar to the beans we used to find in cans, called Blue Lake. Purple beans are delicious, but their fetching color, which makes them easy to spot on the vine, turns to dark green when cooked. Use them the same way you would yellow and plain green beans.

String beans—with or without strings

String beans are also known as snap beans or green beans, even though they can also be yellow or purple.

String beans are best when they feel heavy and plump. They should break with a good, clean snap when bent. Store them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for no more than a couple of days.

To prepare string beans, first check for the string. Most modern varieties don’t have much of a string, as it has been bred out. To check, snap off the stem end. If you find just a small string attached, don’t bother pulling it just go ahead and work in bunches, cutting off the tops and tails. If the string is long and tough, work individually, snapping off both ends of each bean and pulling the string down from top to tail. Some cooks like the look of the tails left on, but I find that they’re tough and unpleasant, and I prefer to cut or snap off both ends.

To cook string beans, boil them in a large pot of salty water until crisp-tender. I learned that it was best to stop the cooking by plunging the beans into an ice-water bath, but now I prefer to undercook them slightly, drain them, lay them out on a towel, and refrigerate them. This method preserves lots more flavor. If you’re serving beans hot as a side dish, cook them just before serving or reheat them in butter or garlic and olive oil just before serving.

Yellow snap beans are becoming more widely available. They should be clear yellow with a hint of green at the tips overripe ones will have a washed-out ivory color. Yellow beans are perfect for pickling, as they’ll retain their hue in vinegar. They’re also pretty when mixed with plain green beans. Romano beans and other flat, wide string beans are especially good in soups, where long cooking coaxes out their characteristic flavor.

Haricots verts are tiny, tender string beans worth seeking out. Small enough to use without snapping in half, they give a sophisticated look to salads and pasta, and they’re beautiful on a main-course plate. Kentucky Wonder is an heirloom variety with a rich flavor. Eat it as a string bean when very young or shelled when mature. Heirloom bean varieties will reward you with superior flavor as well as

Fresh shell beans are worth seeking out

If you’ve only ever eaten dried beans, fresh shell beans will be a revelation. There are thousands of varieties, in many beautiful colors and patterns, that taste creamy and flavorful when cooked. Look for them in farmers’ markets and specialty stores.

Shell beans are at their best when the pods are full and slightly soft, indicating the beans inside are mature but not dry. Avoid pods that are withered or have watery or brown spots. Keep shell beans at room temperature for a few days, or up to a week in the refrigerator in a paper bag to allow for a little air circulation.

To prepare shell beans, break open the pods along the natural seams and use your thumb to coax out the beans.

To cook shell beans, simmer them until tender in unsalted water or low-salt stock (at this stage, salt can toughen beans) with half an onion and a small bundle of bay leaves, fresh thyme, and parsley stems. The exception is fava beans, which have a tough outer skin that needs to be removed. Before simmering, blanch shelled favas in boiling water for a minute or two, drain, and put them into an ice bath so the tough skins will slip off easily.

Once shell beans are simmered until tender, they’re ready to be marinated for a salad, tossed with pasta, or puréed with olive oil for a delicious spread.

Fava beans are a different species of shell bean (Vicia faba), and thus are only distantly related to other shell beans. Choose pods that are firm and bright green and that show distinctive bumps from the beans within. Tongues of Fire are part of a larger category of red-striped shell beans called French horticultural beans. Like Calypsos, their speckling will fade during cooking. Combine Tongues of Fire with garlic, shallots, tomatoes, and basil in a salad or pasta.

Calypso beans are speckled and playful looking, but their colors fade when cooked. For a light, delicious bean gratin, moisten cooked, seasoned beans with stock, top them with breadcrumbs, and bake. Cannellini are the classic Italian shell beans. Cooked cannellini are especially good for minestrones and salads because they hold their shape and have a deliciously creamy texture.


Recently I wrote about a pasta-bean salad that included fava beans. Carol had told me that they had appeared in a local market, so I immediately went there to buy a pound for the salad. Fresh fava beans, along with green peas and asparagus, are among the joys of the spring garden. They also become a labor of love and of diminishing returns. Preparing them requires a couple of labor-intensive steps (at least in the USA and France). As well, a large pile of bean pods wind up as a handful of bright green beans.

Favas, also called broad beans, have been around for thousands of years. They have been an important part of the diets of many civilizations in the Middle East and around the perimeter of the Mediterranean. In Egypt they were considered to be a food of the common people. In other places, they have been elevated to the status of a delicacy, and of course they were included in the menu of Dr. Hannibal Lecter’s request for a final meal in the terrifying movie, “Silence of the Lambs.” The beans are versatile: they can be an alternative to chickpeas in hummus they can be fried crispy and serve as a snack they can be sauced with vinaigrette and stand alone they can be eaten as any other bean. And they are delicious.

Fava beans also gave rise to the term, favism, a mysterious illness that puzzled medical people for many years. Victims who ate fava beans could develop anemia, jaundice, fever, pain, kidney failure, and even death. Careful research eventually demonstrated that the illness was due to substances, vicine and related compounds, in fava beans that caused the red blood cells of susceptible individuals to break down, releasing their contents including hemoglobin. This resulted in all of the serious effects. Susceptible individuals were found to have an inherited deficiency of an enzyme, glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD), that is important in glucose metabolism and produces glutathione, a critical protectant against oxidation within red blood cells. Vicine is a potent oxidation agent, and similar substances in various foods and medications can cause the same illness. An irony is that the populations most commonly affected by the deficiency are those surrounding the Mediterranean – people who often use fava beans as an important part of their diet. The nature of the genetics is that men are much more likely than women to be affected.

When you prepare fava beans, you need to be ready for a lot of effort. In the USA, there are 3 steps and a pound of raw bean pods will yield only about a half cup of brilliant green, flavorful beans. You need to decide whether or not they are worth the effort. Removing the inner shell is a step that is often skipped, especially if the beans are young and tender. Also, the inner shell adds to the crispiness if you decide to fry the beans for a snack.

Step 1: Shell the beans. This is easy and uses the same method that one employs for shelling green peas or black-eyed peas or Crowder peas. Select pods that are full. The beans in younger pods may be more tender and may obviate the need for Step 2. If you have a lot of beans to prepare, this is a perfect place for the old East Texas approach of several folks sitting on the porch in rocking chairs, gossiping while they pop the beans into bowls in their laps.

Step 2: Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Plunge the shelled beans into the boiling water, working in batches if necessary. Return to the boil for 1 minute. Then transfer the beans rapidly to a generously sized and well-iced bowl of ice water. When the beans have cooled, transfer them to a bowl.

Step 3: Using your fingers or the sharp tip of a paring knife, open the thick shell of the bean and pop out the bright green inner bean. Repeat the process until all of the beans have been harvested. Use the beans in whatever recipe appeals to you. In general, the simpler the preparation the better the result because the flavor of the bean stands out.


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