Beans ... and chocolate.
Sure, when cooking up a savory bean stew, your first instinct may not be to add chocolate. However, when you do, the risk will be worth the reward. Trust me.
In my very last CSA box of the season I was blessed with about 2 pounds of fresh cranberry beans. It's not very common to find fresh beans so I always take advantage of them when I see them at my local farmer's market.
Yes, these are the kind of beans that you need to shuck. Just put on some tunes and go for it. Except for the shucking they are easy to make.
I only wish their beautiful color held up once cooked. Alas, it's a fleeting beauty.
Once I shucked all the beans, I wanted to use them in something special. Inspiration hit when I stumbled across a mouthwatering recipe for Borlotti Bean Mole with Roast Winter Squash on 101 Cookbooks, which was based on a recipe in Wild Garlic, Gooseberries and Me by Dennis Cotter.
Both Renato and I are fans of mole negro - a Mexican sauce made with bittersweet chocolate, ground almonds, and chile peppers. Spices like cinnamon and clove balance the flavor pop of the chiles while the ground nuts act as a sauce thickener. The complex flavor combo brings what might be classified as a simple stew to the next level.
You can certainly make this recipe with dried beans. You can easily use a No Soak method to get them ready for this recipe. If using dried beans, just skip Step #2.
Cranberry Bean Mole with Butternut Squash
(adapted from 101 Cookbooks)
- 2 pounds of fresh cranberry beans in the pod, shucked (yields about 2 1/2 cups shucked beans)
- 4 cups winter squash
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cups Swiss chard, shredded
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 4 jalapenos, halved, seeded, and chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 pound fresh tomatoes, chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon ground clove
- 2 tablespoons almonds, dark roasted and finely ground
- 1 ounce (1/2 a bar) 70% dark chocolate, broken into pieces
- Salt, to taste
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Shuck the beans. Bring a saucepan of water to a boil, add the fresh cranberry beans and cook for about 15 minutes until they are just cooked. Drain and cool under cold running water. Set aside.
- Peel the butternut squash. Cut the flesh into bite-sized chunks. Place them on a rimmed baking sheet and toss with olive oil. Roast in the oven for about 20 minutes until caramelized on the outside but still firm. Remove from oven. Set aside.
- Reduce the oven temperature to 250 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Melt the butter in a 5-quart Dutch oven (or oven-proof pot) and fry the onion and jalapenos gently over a low to medium heat for 20-30 minutes, until caramelized.
- Add the garlic and fry for three more minutes.
- Add the spices, continually stirring around the pot for a couple of minutes until fragrant.
- Toss in the tomatoes, bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer gently for 15 minutes.
- Stir in the ground almonds, chocolate, roasted squash, cranberry beans, shredded Swiss chard. Season with salt (to taste). Stir until all the chocolate has melted.
- Cover the pot and put it in the oven to cook for 2 hours.
- Serve hot with a side of corn tortillas.