In the book Sunday suppers at lucques - Suzanne Goin calls for shell beans. Is this a generic class of beans or is it one particular bean? What kinds of beans would work? Thanks.
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I'm not familiar with the book but I believe she's talking about a general class of beans with shells. You might enjoy reading this article from Mother Earth News about growing shell beans
Shell beans are still in their 'shells' (dried pods)- in other words, a recent harvest. The pod is dry but the bean is plump and moist, and less cooking required. A real treat, usually only available from a farmer who grows them.
June is a trusted source on General Cooking.
"Shell Beans" are also known as cranberry beans. Their formal name is probably Borlotti Beans. They are a white bean speckled with red. VERY tasty beans! I like to make Pasta Fagiole with them.
Cooks Thesaurus states: " cranberry bean = borlotti bean = saluggia = shell bean = salugia bean = crab eye bean = rosecoco bean = Roman bean = fagiolo romano Notes: These have an excellent, nutty flavor, and are commonly used in Italian soups and stews. Substitutes: fresh cranberry bean OR tongues of fire beans (very similar) OR cannellini bean OR Great Northern bean OR pinto bean OR chili bean."