I love the look and texture of this fall salad, and it's a great way to use seasonal shell beans.
6 oz. mixed arugula, spinach, and romaine leaves
2 Tbsp. olive oil
6 oz. fresh shell beans (after shelling - approximately 1 lb. in shell)
6 small carrots, cut into thin, 2" long batons
1/4 cup water
2 large tomatoes, preferably green striped or orange, cut into attractive wedges.
Handful of cilantro greens, stemmed
3 Tbs. walnut oil
2 Tbs. olive oil
2 Tbs. lime juice
1 Tbs. honey
1/2 tsp. hot sauce, such as Cholula
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp. salt
Wash and thoroughly dry the greens, and tear into bite-sized pieces. Chill greens in fridge, wrapped in a towel, until everything else is ready.
Heat oil in a large skillet over low heat. Add shell beans, and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes. Add carrots, and continue to cook, stirring, until carrots are a little browned, about 5 minutes. Add the water and cover the pan; this will steam the beans and carrots. Cook until both beans and carrots are tender, adding more water if needed, for about 5-10 minutes more. Let cool to room temperature.
Prepare dressing by whisking all ingredients together or shaking them in a small jar.
Arrange salad in a wide deep bowl by distributing greens, then placing bean mixture in center of bowl. Arrange tomatoes in a circle around the inside rim of the bowl. Garnish with cilantro.
Pour dressing around the inside edge of bowl and toss the salad at the table (you may not need all the dressing). Eat and enjoy autumn!
What are Shell Beans?
Shell beans are fresh, mature beans, before they have been dried. You'll see them at farmer's markets and some supermarkets. They are usually sold in their pods, but occasionally the pods (shells) have been removed. There is a huge variety of shell beans. They might be black, white, or mixed colors, like the pretty cranberry beans, which have a red and white pod containing speckled beans. Even garbanzo beans can be purchased as shell beans.
To compare, green beans are beans that are young and skinny with tiny beans inside and tender pods. You can eat the whole thing, pod and all. But if you leave those beans to mature on the vine, the beans will grow and swell and eventually turn into shell beans, and the pod will be too tough to chew. If left to dry longer, they will become dry beans which can then be shelled (the pod becomes so dry it is brittle) and stored without refrigeration.
I like shell beans. The 'shelled' beans cook quickly, because they still have a lot of moisture: 15-20 minutes cooking time is about right, compared to maybe an hour or more with dried beans. Because they aren't dry, they are more plump-looking than dried beans and have a nice texture - a little bit firmer. Think of the cooked texture as al dente, like the texture you want from perfectly cooked pasta.
Make sure to refrigerate shell beans until you are ready to shell and cook them. They also freeze well. In that case, open the pods and plop the beans into small freezer containers or zip lock bags. They'll keep for at least 6 months if tightly wrapped and will still cook quickly.