Borlotti Beans with Parsley-Almond Pesto

When was the last time you used the word “romantic” to describe dried beans? Steve Sando, one of my food heroes believes they are:

Beans are romantic. Take a handful of brightly colored heirlooms and put them in your pocket. Travel to Idaho or Istanbul and plant them. At first you’ll get the beautiful flowers…followed by string beans, shelling beans and finally dry beans…keep some of your bounty as seed stock and the repeat the process the following year, in the same place or across the globe. I find this incredibly romantic.

Steve is the author of Heirloom Beans, from which the quote above appears. His mission is to preserve heirloom seeds and beans, varieties that would surely vanish from the earth without intervention by a passionate soul like his.

Heirloom beans come decked out in an amazing array of spots, stripes and colors, each one more beautiful than the next. Take a look at Steve’s online store Rancho Gordo to see for yourself.

The first time I stocked up on beans from Rancho Gordo, I was surprised at how quickly they seemed to cook. I think it’s because the dried beans I usually buy at the store are not as fresh; maybe they sit around on shelves longer than they should because they give the impression they last forever.

I’m drawn to the speckled dark red color, taste and texture of Borlotti beans, a type of cranberry bean. I sometimes find them canned at Italian groceries but not very often in dried form.

I soaked half a pound of Borlotti beans overnight before cooking them and I ended up with enough to last the week; tossed in salads for lunch and over linguine for dinner one night.

I sauteed some scallions and thinly sliced red onion, then added the beans and some chickpeas to a simple pesto sauce of toasted almonds, garlic and parsley. The Borlotti have a gentle flavor, velvety texture and a skin that retains its shape after cooking, making them a nice choice for soup, too.

Pomegranate Salsa

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Not your everyday relish

Once pomegranates come into season in late fall, I like to use the fresh, tart seeds as much as possible before the fruits disappear. I’ve been known to juice the whole fruits to make into cocktails and sorbets, which is fun and also a tad messy, but after a few Pometinis who cares?

I discovered this Pomegranate Salsa recipe in one of my favorite cookbooks, Suzanne Goin’s Sunday Suppers at Lucques.

I’ve haven’t yet had a chance to eat at Lucques - it’s been a long while since I’ve visited Los Angeles – but Suzanne’s restaurant has been on my radar ever since she opened it more than ten years ago. She’s the kind of chef who inspires me to cook – her food is simple, soulful and deeply rooted in seasonal produce.

This sauce is like a sweet relish; it’s great spooned over grilled poultry, pork, or beef and also a good complement to soft, tangy cheeses. Plus the jewel-like colors of the salsa look so festive on a holiday table.