Cranberry beans in tomato-fennel sauce over polenta with Parmesan

I haven’t had time to cook in the past week. The sketch comedy show I’m in is happening this weekend, so we’ve been rehearsing almost every night. The one night off I went to two yoga classes, back to back, trying to find my center again. I had gotten super stressed, just a ball of anxiety, feeling guilty because I wasn’t excited about the show, kinda hated this group of people who I ordinarily love without reservation. It was a difficult week. But one upside is that I had prepared by cooking and freezing food. Including these beans. Which I ate yesterday. And OMG–I still can’t believe how good it is. For reals. This time I skipped the polenta, because it was just me, and instead had the beans and sauce over sausage. Specifically, the black pepper sausage from Big Fork, a local company that makes sausage right here in my neighborhood. It’s delicious. Highly recommend. Here’s the link for more info. (http://www.bigforkbrands.com/) Okay. Now off to meditate, try to get as calm as possible before more rehearsal and then a performance. Eeeeek!!!

dreamsofmyfava

I made this last night for a very small dinner party with two trusted friends. cranberry beans with tomato fennel sauce over parmesan polentaA safe environment for a gamble, in case it didn’t turn out. The photo is terrible because we didn’t eat until late, after talking for two hours while drinking wine, so the photo was an act of duty, without regard to aesthetics. But omg — all I can really say is yum. Which is what I said at least three times while eating. Because I was trying to restrain myself. It is, after all, somewhat unseemly to freak out over the goodness of your own cooking.

To balance things out a bit, my praise was not entirely self-directed. Unfortunately, this is not an original recipe. I got it from theKitchn, who in turn took it from Rancho Gordo. Here’s the link. (http://bit.ly/17RQGQ4) And here’s the recipe, which I followed almost slavishly. My only departures were…

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Cranberry bean soup with potato, Swiss chard, and banger sausage from the Underground Food Collective

This soup is a textbook example of how a single ingredient can inspire a new creation. And, perhaps more importantly, how one can repurpose leftover ingredients to make something entirely new and completely delicious.

When I was at the Underground Food Collective’s butcher shop this past Saturday, I decided to buy a sausage to go with cranberry beans that I’d cooked earlier in the week. But I wasn’t sure which sausage to get or what to make. There were several options, including a Moroccan goat sausage and chorizo, both of which sounded good. But I decided to go with the English banger, a simpler, non-assertively flavored pork sausage. Then, when I came home from Madison, I put it away and pretty much forgot about it.

Sunday night, as dinner time approached, I looked in the fridge to see what was available. I’d been so caught up in blogging and cleaning and general business that I hadn’t even thought about planning for dinner. Plus I knew in the back of my head that there was plenty of food. But what?

As it turns out, I had about 2 cups of leftover cranberry beans with perhaps 3 cups of their cooking liquid. If you don’t have leftovers, here’s a link to my post on cooking basic beans. (https://dreamsofmyfava.com/2013/01/02/basic-beans/) It’s easy.

Returning to my search for pre-cooked food, I also found about 1 cup of Swiss chard leftover from Sunday morning’s breakfast potato, apple, and fennel hash. Then, I noticed a single, lonely Yukon Gold potato on the counter, just on the verge of sprouting. It definitely needed to be used. Inspiration: I would riff on Portugese kale soup. Simple, easy, and sure to be delicious.

cranberry bean soupThis photo is from yesterday morning, when the soup was cold. Which I don’t recommend for either eating or photographing. Except when seen cold, it is evident that there’s almost no fat in this soup except for the sausage itself. Which is pretty cool.

I could have made it without the sausage, of course, and it would have been pretty good. In fact, the next time I have leftover beans, I probably will make a vegetarian version. With the sausage, however, it was absolutely brilliant, hearty and satisfying without being cloying. Plus the sausage inspired the soup, so I suppose the vegetarian version to come could not exist without the carnivorous mother. Here’s the recipe. If you try, I hope you like!

2 c. cooked cranberry beans, with cooking liquid or broth
1 medium sized Yukon gold potato, diced
1 c. cooked Swiss chard or other cooked greens, chopped
1 mildly-flavored sausage

1. Brown the sausage on all sides, for 7-10 minutes over medium-high heat.

2. Meanwhile, combine the beans, their cooking liquid or the broth, and the potatoes in a medium saucepan. Salt to taste, depending on how highly seasoned your cranberry beans are, and bring to a simmer. Add the sausage, cover, and cook on low for 15-20 minutes. Remove the sausage and transfer to a cutting board. Add the greens to the pot, cover, and turn off the heat. Wait 5 minutes or so and then slice the sausage into half rounds. Stir the sliced sausage into the soup. Serve with lightly toasted bread.