What are your food splurges? A pint of perfect figs, a medallion of goat cheese wrapped in a smoked maple leaf, or beans that look hand-painted? I’m talking about the things you don’t buy because they’re economical, but because you’ve been economical and—well—you deserve something nice.
I count fresh shelling beans among my special treats. Shelling beans are just like the dried or canned beans you’re used to (say, cannellini), but they’re fresh and still in their pods. As the name implies, they’re meant to be shelled before cooking. They start showing up at markets in the northeast right about now and run about $5-6/lb. They’re far from being a great value, but as splurges go, they’re one of the best. It’s hard to even compare shelling beans to their dried and canned counterparts—their flavor and texture is amazing.
Last Friday, I walked up to the greenmarket after work and got a great deal on fresh cranberry beans. As much as I love them, I still bought way more than I could eat in a week. Should you ever find yourself in a similar predicament, I’d suggest you do the same.
Shelling beans freeze beautifully. To freeze mine, I shelled and blanched them in boiling water for 3 minutes. (Start timing as soon as you drop the beans in the water. Don’t wait for the water to come back up to a boil before you start timing.) Then I drained them into a colander and covered them with ice to stop them from cooking. Feel free to use a proper ice bath here, but (full disclosure) I own exactly one ice cube tray so I improvise.
Once they cooled to room temperature, I arranged them in a single layer on a baking sheet and allowed them to dry. Excess water on the beans when they go into the freezer will leave you with one big frozen slab of bean. Next I placed the baking sheet in the freezer until the beans were frozen solid. After they were frozen, I portioned them out into freezer-specific ziploc bags and returned them to the freezer. I’d say that I put about a cup of beans into each bag, but do what makes sense for you!
I’m happy to have some of this little luxury squirreled away for the winter, but until then here are some great ways to fresh enjoy shelling beans now.