Monday, March 16, 2015

Cranberry Bean & Mussel Stew with Zucchini

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Cranberry Bean & Mussel Stew with Zucchini
Serves: 4
Difficulty: Moderate
Cranberry Bean & Mussel Stew with Zucchini
This is a hearty and warming winter stew. For such an elegant, comforting meal, this stew is incredibly simple to prepare; it takes less than 30 minutes once the beans are prepared.  Any cranberry bean will do – I chose dried beans from Rancho Gordo. These heirloom beans are a beautiful dense, velvety bean with gorgeous pot liquor.  Originally from Colombia, the beans have been bred around the world. Similar to Borlotti, cranberry beans are very thin-skinned with a velvety texture making them ideal for soups and stews. If short for time, you could substitute canned white beans that have been rinsed and drained.

Cranberry beans

Mussels are one of the most eco-friendly proteins. Most of the mussels we eat these days are cultivated on ropes suspended from floating rafts in clean waters. They plump up naturally on plankton, converting it into nutritious meaty flesh. Farmed mussels are environmentally benign, and some research suggests their cultivation my have an overall beneficial effect on the marine ecosystem.

This dish falls squarely within that category of recipes that are so simple, every ingredient really matters. The mussels, of course, need to be as fresh as can be. The cooking time is so short, you definitely want to have everything prepped and ready before you start. I let the mussels sit in a big bowl of water with a little flour while I prepared all the ingredients.

  • 1 C dried cranberry or borlotti beans
  • Water
  • ½ medium onion, diced
  • 1 carrot diced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic (divided, 2 whole, 2 smashed, 1 sliced in half,)
  • 1½ lbs. mussels, well scrubbed and beards removed
  • 4 Tb extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus more for drizzling before serving
  • 1-2 zucchini (about 10 ounces), diced
  • ¼ tsp dried chili flakes
  • 4 slices of country bread
  • 2 Tb fresh basil, chopped
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
To make the beans: Rinse the beans in cold water and check them for small bits of debris.  Place beans in a large, heavy-bottomed pot, cover with about an inch of cold water and soak overnight. I do not change the soaking liquid. Instead, making sure you have enough water to cover the beans by at least 2 inches, add onions, carrots, celery and 2 whole garlic cloves to pot with the beans. Bring to a boil, and continue boiling for 5 minutes.  Then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. I like to see how low the heat can go and still produce the occasional simmering bubble. If too much heat is escaping, cover the pot partially. If the liquid gets too low, you can add more warm water. Allow the beans to cook. This can take 1 hour or even 2 hours, depending on the age of the beans. When finished, add salt to taste and remove the whole garlic cloves. Go easy on the salt as it takes awhile for the beans to absorb it.  This can be made one day ahead – storing the cooked beans in their broth overnight in the refrigerator. Otherwise, set aside and let cool as you prepare the rest of the stew.

To make the stew: Rinse and drain mussels, checking to be sure none have opened. Heat 3 Tb olive oil in a large, lidded, deep skillet over low heat. Add 2 smashed garlic cloves to pan and sauté, stirring occasionally, until golden, 2 minutes. Increase heat to medium, add zucchini and cook, stirring occasionally until lightly browned but still firm, about 2 minutes. Add mussels and chili flakes to pan. Cover with lid, increase heat to medium-high and cook until mussels open, about 5 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer cooked mussels to a bowl, allowing liquid inside of mussels to drain into the skillet. Shuck the mussels, discarding any that did not open. Discard the shells.

Saute zucchini....
Add the mussels, which then open.
Use a slotted spoon to scoop up the mussels and remove the meat

Place mussel meats back in skillet and decrease heat to medium. Add cooked beans, onions, carrots and celery along with their cooking liquid to skillet. Season to taste with salt.  Bring stew to a simmer and cook to blend flavors, about 5 min.
Add mussel meat to the beans
Preheat broiler: Rub both sides of bread with garlic halves. Brush with 1 Tb olive oil and place under a broiler until golden brown, 2-3 minutes per side.
OMG....amazing garlic bread!
To serve, ladle stew into bowls, then drizzle with additional olive oil and sprinkle with basil.  Serve with grilled bread.  You will want it for the amazing broth!

This healthy, meaty (!) stew can be made even heartier with the addition of blanched, stemmed chopped greens such as kale or collard greens.  Give it a try – great winter night stew for family and guests!


Other fabulous bean dishes, also using Rancho Gordo beans.

1 comment:

  1. Great cooker! What a genius idea to combine mussels with all of these ingredients, I will experiment that : )