While wandering around farmers' markets this summer, I've seen a lot of beans. So many that it's overwhelming. There are regular green beans, yellow wax beans, borlotti beans, and my personal favorite, the cranberry bean.
After doing some digging, I uncovered the following. The cranberry bean is somewhat related to its aesthetic cousin, the borlotti bean. Cranberry beans are also not related to cranberries, but rather are named after the fruit due to their brownish-reddish-pinkish color. These beans were among the first cultivated beans in North America (all the credit goes to the Aztecs and Incas). Through the wonders of globalization, they traveled from North America to Italy around the 1500s, where they were promptly planted, celebrated, and renamed "borlotti." Of course, due to differences in climates, these two beans are not the same and do indeed taste a little differently.
The most interesting - and kind of heartbreaking - aspect of this bean is that when cooked, it loses its pink coloration in favor of a muted brown.
After some consideration, I decided to forgo cooking experiements (aka disasters) with the cranberry beans and settled on some beautiful, traditional green beans. My initial instinct was to make minestrone, but our summer days were still experiencing 80* of heat. Instead, I settled on preparing a super easy green beans curry. Using fresh beans means spending a little more time in the kitchen, but if you choose to use frozen French green beans, this dish will go from the stove to your dining table in 15 minutes flat. Pair with parathas, chapatis, or even wheat tortillas if you don't have time to fuss around with shopping for South Asian breads. I've included a recipe with frozen beans below; the only adjustment necessary when using fresh green beans is to boil them until cooked yet crisp before doing anything else.
Green Beans Paliya Serves 3-4
Ingredients: 16 oz. packet of frozen French green beans 1-2 tbsp oil 1/2 tsp mustard seeds A few dried red chilies 1 pinch asofoetida/hing 1 tsp turmeric powder 1 tbsp channa dal 1 tbsp split black gram dal salt 2 tbsp frozen coconut, dessicated
Heat oil on high heat in a large saucepan. Add mustard seeds and heat until they sputter. Add both dals, the chilies, asofoetida, and turmeric to the oil. Stir to avoid burning! Once the dals look golden-brown, add the frozen beans. Cover with a lid and stir once in awhile to make sure the mixture doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan. Once the beans have cooked, add salt and stir in coconut. Serve!