Flageolet

I'm not Catholic but I don't let that stop me from feeling some guilt, in equal measure with unbridled glee, every Saturday when we get the Tantré farm share box. Every single week, it's hard to believe our good fortune. Here's what we got in the farm share box this week:

- Four kinds of tomatoes

- Sweet red peppers

- Huge sweet onions

- Beets

- Leeks

- Potatoes

- Eggplant

- Summer squash

- Cucumber

- Kale

- Arugula

- Basil

- Edamame

- Flageolets


That's right, I said flageolets. Not only do we get prodigious amounts of food of a quality we could not buy in any store, we have a farm share that gives us flageolets, sometimes called the "caviar of beans." Previous to last Saturday, I had only seen flageolets dried in specialty stores and didn't consider the possibility that I would ever have fresh ones.  Until I found them in the Tantré box. 


The "What's Cooking America" website describe them thusly: "Flageolets are tiny, tender French bush type beans that are very popular in French cooking. The flageolet has an inedible green pod about 3" long and small, light-green, kidney-shaped seeds. Fresh flageolets are occasionally available in the summer. They range from creamy white to light green."


What's special about them? They are described as having an unusual creamy texture and a delicate taste that goes especially well with lamb. They are the prettiest pale green color you've ever seen. And they can be used in cassoulet as a substitute for the more traditional and even harder to find Haricot Tarbais (selling for $16/lb.) 


Each flageolet is about as slender as a chopstick and the beans inside range from tiny to miniscule.  I can only imagine the kind of zen submission to the task you would need to have for picking them. Although I actually enjoy shelling them.  


Last night we ate our first fresh flageolets, which I cooked simply in some lightly salted water. I put in some fresh tarragon at the end (nod to the French) and a little butter. They were delicious, with a flavor that reminds me of lima beans but with a great texture all their own. 


Wikipedia says: "The light green Flageolet bean is taken very seriously in France and soon the heirloom Chevrier will come under a controlled label reminiscent of the wine "Appellation d'Origine Controllée" called "Label Rouge". A number of other beans are already produced under this label. Flageolet bean varieties include: Chevrier (the original heirloom), Elsa, Flambeau, Flamingo." I'm going to have to ask Richard which variety he's growing.  


When I asked Richard how he came to be growing flageolets at all he said that although the seed is expensive and they are incredibly labor-intensive, the catalog made them sound too good to resist....I'm making a note of that for my campaign to get Christmas Limas next year.... 


I'm in the process of oven roasting the 1/2 bushel of tomatoes I bought last weekend from Frog Holler Organic Farm,  so here's what I'm planning to make with my next batch of flageolets (from the Fine Cooking website):



Flageolet Beans with Slow-Roasted Tomatoes


For the tomatoes: 
2 lb. ripe plum tomatoes
1 tsp. kosher salt

For the beans: 
1 lb. dried flageolet beans, soaked at least 6 hours
1 carrot, peeled and cut in half
1 small yellow onion, peeled and cut in half
2 bay leaves
4 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley
6 sprigs fresh thyme
Kosher salt
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 ribs celery, thinly sliced

How to make

Roast the tomatoes -- Heat the oven to 250°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or foil. Core the tomatoes and cut them in half lengthwise. Put them on the baking sheet, cut side up, and sprinkle with the salt. Bake the tomatoes until they look dry but are still slightly plump and not leathery, 4 to 6 hours, depending on their size. Cut any large pieces in half.


Cook the beans -- Drain the soaking beans and put them in a large pot along with the carrot, onion, and bay leaves. Tie the parsley and thyme together and add them to the pot. Add enough water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook until tender, about 2 hours. Check that the beans stay covered with liquid, adding more if needed. When the beans are tender, add the salt. (The beans can be cooked up to 2 days ahead. Remove the carrot, onion, herbs, and bay leaves and refrigerate the beans in their liquid.)


In a Dutch oven or high-sided skillet, heat the olive oil over medium. When the oil is hot, add the garlic and cook for about 1 minute. Add the celery and cook until softened slightly, about 2 minutes. Drain the beans, reserving their cooking liquid. Add the beans and 2 cups of the cooking liquid to the celery and garlic. Add the slow-roasted tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. (At this point, the dish can be covered and held up to an hour at room temperature.)




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