Stewed Cranberry Beans with Kale

By • February 3, 2014 • 18 Comments

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Author Notes: Sautéing aromatics before adding your soaked beans makes for a pot of beans that's deep with flavor; cooking them low and slow ensures a creamy, stewed result. I like to use cranberry beans, but any other creamy bean will do. Soak them overnight in plenty of salted water, then drain before cooking. You want to make sure that, while the beans cook, the water level never drops below them; if it does, add some more liquid, preferably hot. You want your beans to be nice and soft before you add the kale in. But feel free to add extra cooking liquid to turn it into more of a soup. I like serving mine over polenta or mashed potatoes.Marian Bull

Serves 6 to 8

  • 2 cups dried cranberry beans
  • Salted water, for soaking
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, roughly chopped
  • 4 to 5 cloves of garlic, chopped coarsely
  • 1 heaping teaspoon celery seed
  • 1 large pinch dried thyme
  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 5 cups liquid (I use a mix of homemade vegetable stock and water)
  • 2 to 3 bay leaves
  • 1 carrot, peeled and snapped in half
  • 1 large head of kale, washed and chopped (roughly 2 cups)
  • Splash of wine or vermouth (optional)
  1. Pick through your beans to make sure there aren't any pebbles or other debris hidden among them. Soak them in plenty of salted water overnight -- enough to cover them by at least 3 inches or so.
  2. When you're ready to cook, drain your beans. Heat a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the olive oil, then once you think it's hot, add the onions. Sauté for about five minutes, then add the garlic, and let that cook for another minute or two. Add the celery seed, thyme, pepper flakes, and a big fat pinch of salt, plus a few cracks of pepper. Let cook for a few minutes, making sure the garlic doesn't burn; add the beans, and cook for a few more, to let all of the flavors start to join forces.
  3. Add the liquid, bay leaves, and carrot, and bring everything to a boil. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour, checking periodically to make sure that the liquid doesn't drop below the beans. If you're not using salted broth, you'll want to add extra salt; do so gradually, but don't be timid.
  4. To check for doneness, make sure you test at least 4 or 5 beans. Once all of them are soft, but before they completely fall apart, add the kale. At this point, the cooking liquid should have thickened from the starch of the beans. Cook it until the kale wilts, about 5 to 10 minutes. Taste for seasoning. Add a splash of wine or vermouth if you want; if you do, let it cook off for a few minutes before removing from heat.
  5. Serve over polenta or mashed potatoes; leftovers reheat beautifully, but you may have to add a splash of water if they look thick or dry.
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Comments (18) Questions (0)

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7 months ago JaySkelton

Made this last night with a few changes: dark red kidney beans (they were what was available), celery salt instead of celery seed, and no wine. The bean method worked perfectly from soak to cook, which delighted me because I have always had difficulties working with dried beans (and no one was gassy!). The kale was wilted but still crisp and textured, so it was a perfect doneness. Onions dissolved completely (are they supposed to do that? even if not, they certainly added to the flavor). Served it over a lightly buttered orzo, and the flavor and textures were amazing! Very filling meal, too.

Only change I want to try with this is a spring of fresh herb instead of dried next cook time.

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7 months ago LE BEC FIN

p.s. but as importantly, Thank You for such an appealing recipe. I love cranberry beans and look foreward to making this. Your lesson about the aromatics is an important one too.

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7 months ago Marian Bull

Marian is Food52's Associate Editor.

Yes, let me know how it turns out for you!

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7 months ago LE BEC FIN

Well darned if this salt issue isn't a pi_ser! I'm not sure i have ever seen such a divisive cooking issue; half the knowledgeable sources say Yes, and then the other half says No. I feel like we're all thrown into the Who Do You Trust? wheel...... and i think it means to me that no one reaslly knows.

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7 months ago Marian Bull

Marian is Food52's Associate Editor.

Yes, I used to be staunchly in the "DO NOT SALT UNTIL HALFWAY THROUGH COOKING" camp, but honestly, now I salt both during soaking and at the beginning of cooking, and my beans are far from tough. Steve Sando from Rancho Gordo explained it to me this way: salt does, in fact, toughen beans' skins, but the amount you use in cooking is so minimal that the effect is negligible, and adding salt at the end of cooking just results in salty water, not more flavorful beans.

Long live salt!

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7 months ago IndustrialGastronomy

I have always drained beans after boiling to try to minimize gassiness. How much of a difference does this cooking method have, and is it worth the added flatulence at my dinner party? pardon the less than savory question!

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7 months ago Marian Bull

Marian is Food52's Associate Editor.

Soaking is supposed to help with that -- you can also add some kombu to the cooking liquid, then remove before serving. More info on digestion here: food52.com/blog/4634-how-to-cook-dried-beans

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7 months ago Karen Habbestad

I'm not familiar with cranberry beans. I don't think I've ever seen them before! Do you get yours at a local grocery store?

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7 months ago Marian Bull

Marian is Food52's Associate Editor.

I buy them at my local store -- Bob's Red Mill brand is what I've used for this recipe, and they're usually striated, unlike the red ones in this photo. You could also use white beans, or any other creamy bean!

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7 months ago Kinhaven

Not a kale fan here - would collard greens be a suitable substitute?

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7 months ago Marian Bull

Marian is Food52's Associate Editor.

Yes, definitely!

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7 months ago robin lewis

I am not too experienced at soaking/cooking dried beans, but when I have, I'm pretty sure none of the directions call for soaking the beans in 'salted' water. The salt won't toughen the bean? (Rancho Gordo directions say to add salt toward the very end, and a little at a time, because it takes a while for the beans to absorb it so you don't want to overdo it...)

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7 months ago Marian Bull

Marian is Food52's Associate Editor.

Cooks Illustrated actually suggests that you "brine" your beans in heavily salted water, drain them, and then cook them in only lightly salted water. Opinions are definitely varied, though -- I did a good bit of research on that topic and you can find a lot of helpful information here: food52.com/blog/4634-how-to-cook-dried-beans

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7 months ago robin lewis

ah! great! thanks for the tip and link!

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7 months ago Bogre

FYI--the article linked to this recipe included the onions in the ingredient list, but the recipe as published on this page omits them.

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7 months ago Marian Bull

Marian is Food52's Associate Editor.

Thanks for the heads up! I just updated the recipe -- you'll need 2 medium onions, roughly chopped.

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7 months ago Girlfromipanema

The looks great, but are you supposed to puree the beans?

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7 months ago Marian Bull

Marian is Food52's Associate Editor.

Nope! The creaminess comes from the beans' starch thickening their cooking liquid. If you wanted to, though, you could make a thick soup by adding extra vegetable stock and puréeing, say, half of the beans before adding in the kale. This recipe is extremely adaptable! Hope you'll give it a try.