Fresh Shell Bean Gratin

Rattlesnake Beans

Michael Abelman is the author of Fields of Plenty and this recipe came from his web site:
It made me think of the huge Rattlesnake Beans in the garden – I’d considered them “gone by” since the pods were clearly beyond the tender stage – ah, but how about the beans? What a perfect use for those huge beans. I used fresh sage from the garden and was delighted with how tasty these beans were.

Fresh Shell Bean Gratin

This recipe was adapted from Chez Panisse Vegetables, by Alice Waters, and it’s a real crowd pleaser. This one is made with sage, but you can also use marjoram, oregano, basil, or rosemary (sparingly).

2 1/2 to 3 pounds fresh shell beans (about 3 cups shelled)
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt to taste
1 small onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 fresh sage leaves, chopped
2 medium tomatoes,peeled,seeded,and roughly chopped (I used some cherry tomatoes and left the seeds in)
1 cup fresh bread crumbs

Serves 4 to 6

Shell the beans and discard discolored or shriveled beans. Rinse the beans in cold water and put them in a medium saucepan with water to cover by about 1 inch. Bring the water to a boil, skimming off any foam on surface, and add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Reduce the heat and gently simmer the beans, stirring occasionally, until tender, 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the variety and maturity. If the beans start to peek through the liquid during the cooking process, add more water. Remove from heat and season the bean liquid with salt- the beans will absorb the salt gradually. Set the beans aside to cool in the cooking liquid. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Warm a medium sauté pan over medium heat and add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and the onion. Season with salt and cook until the onion is tender, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic and sage and sauté just until the garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, season again with salt, and cook for 1 to 2 more minutes until tomatoes are softened.

Drain the cooled beans, reserving the liquid. Combine the beans in a gratin dish with the onion and tomato mixture and stir to combine. Add enough of the bean-cooking water to almost cover. Combine the bread crumbs with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle them over the beans in an even layer. Bake until the juices are bubbling at the edges and the bread crumbs are evenly browned, about 45 minutes. Serve warm.

There was an interesting interview with Michael Abelman at
He addressed the issue of how do we feed the world:

1. We need land (He suggests long-term leases for young farmers)

2. We need minerals to feed the soil (He suggests every community have its own portable rock grinder that would be moved to farms to take all that embodied mineral energy and release it.)

3.We need farm workers (“It’s very difficult to learn to do farm work later in life. . . We have to find ways to create the mechanisms in the schools and otherwise to encourage this as an honorable and well-paid profession.”)

4. Protein: “My theory is that farmers in the future should not be growing fruits and vegetables ever again, that should be the job of people in their homes, in their communities, so that we’re not turning ourselves into contortions to deliver these foods like organ transplants to market. It doesn’t make sense. We should be focused on protein sources. ( ie. grains, seeds, beans, meat, dairy products.)

5. Access to healthy food by the many. “No agricultural system is going to be able to provide food at the current rate of population growth in certain parts of the world. . . .it is not the job of farmers alone to resolve those issues. It’s everybody’s job.”

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