Tonight I was in the mood for a quick dinner. I had gone for my first run in a long time, lunch hadn’t really happened and my stomach called for food. Rather insistently. A sandwich would have done the trick, I suppose, but I wanted to spend some time in the kitchen.
I had found fresh borlotti beans at the Turkish supermarket yesterday, ravishingly pretty in their pink and cream coats and decided they were just the thing for a Sunday dinner. So I turned to Sarah Raven’s Garden Cookbook to see what one does with borlotti beans. As it happens, there are all sorts of things you can do, including pureeing them into a rather tasty-sounding “brandade” with anchovies and garlic. There was also a large pile of tomatoes on my counter, though, so I decided on borlotti bean ratatouille with fresh tomatoes.
It sounded easy enough. You chop an onion and a few cloves of garlic, you skin and chop some tomatoes and then simmer the beans for a bit. It was about 17.30 when I started dinner prep, hoping I’d be tucking into hot food by 18.30.
Shelling the beans was the first step, which alone took 20 minutes. But look how pretty the naked beans looked:
Then I skinned the tomatoes to go along with the beans. Not a difficult process, dunking a tomato in hot water and peeling off its skin, but it takes time to do it twelve times. Chopping an onion is quick, however, as is pushing two fat cloves of garlic through a press. (I rarely chop garlic, because I prefer the stronger flavor of pressed garlic. Also, I am lazy and chopping cloves of garlic is annoying.) After about 45 minutes, I was still hopeful that I’d be on the couch with a plate in my hands before 19.00.
I would have known this if I had paid attention, but the simmering “for a bit” actually took 50 minutes, and then the beans had to cool for 15 more. Oh goody. Well, at least I had time for a little nap. After I had napped and the beans had turned tender, I chopped a large bunch of cilantro to mix into the beans and crumbled a piece of white cheese to top my plate. And then I dug in.
Perhaps it was the anticipation that had built over more than two (!) hours, but the beans weren’t as good as I’d hoped. They were fine, and the fresh tomato sauce was good, but angels didn’t start singing and my taste buds didn’t do a little jig. I did have enough food to use the beans for a second dinner (so really, that’s only an hour per dinner) and I’m pairing them with cilantro pesto and some sausages on Tuesday, to see what happens.
It will surely be quicker.
Borlotti bean ratatouille
Based on a recipe in Sarah Raven’s Garden Cookbook
- 375 gr fresh borlotti beans (shelled weight- I had about 650 gr of pods)
- 12 tomatoes
- 1 red onion
- 2 fat cloves of garlic
- large glug of olive oil
- large bunch of cilantro
- chunk of white cheese
Skin the tomatoes by scoring their bottom, dunking them in boiling water for 20-30 seconds and peeling back the skin. Remove the hard bit in the middle where the vine was attached and roughly chop the tomatoes. Dice the onion. Heat some olive oil in a large skillet, add the onion and cook until soft. Press the cloves of garlic over the pan with the onion, cook for a minute or so, just until it loses its raw edge.
Add the tomatoes and the beans to the skillet, mix thoroughly and lower the heat. Simmer the beans for 45 minutes or so, stirring every once in a while to make sure all beans spend a good amount of time in the tomato liquid. When the beans are tender, take them off the heat and cool for 15 minutes. In the mean time, finely chop the cilantro and crumble the cheese. Divide the beans over plates, add a few tablespoons of cilantro to each plate and top with some of the cheese. Serve.