Summer cooking is all about fresh vegetables. It’s the season for salads, leafy and otherwise. Nearly every offering at the produce stand qualifies.
Just now, beans of every stripe are making their way to the market. From my perspective, beans ranks high on the scale of superb summer vegetables. Their flavor is as heavenly as the finest asparagus. There is comfort in a bean.
Slender string beans in green and yellow, wax beans, flat wide Romano beans and purple-striped dragon tongues are piled high. Every year, when all of these are available, I buy a handful of each for a salad of colorful summer beans. But I am sure to buy a couple of pounds of fresh shell beans in the pod, too.
Shell beans are, quite simply, sensational. Look for crimson-podded cranberry beans (called borlotti when dried) or fresh limas (they’ll make you a lima lover). Fresh, pale butter beans (like butter) and ivory-colored cannellini (buonissimo) are also favorites. Or try one of the diminutive highly speckled types such as Jacob’s Cattle.
Fair warning, though: Once you’re hooked on fresh shell beans, it’s for life. There’s no turning back. As opposed to dried beans, fresh beans need but 30 minutes of simmering to become soft, creamy and utterly sublime.
To return to our recipe, say you have procured your beans. Allot time to cook the shell beans slowly, and all the others briefly. (Count two to four minutes depending on size.) It’s best to cook each kind separately, so none are overcooked. That’s not hard; just have a large pot of salty boiling water going and cook them sequentially. When all have cooled, combine them in a bowl, add the drained shell beans and some halved cherry tomatoes, and dress with an assertive garlicky vinaigrette.
We mustn’t give short shrift to the other part of this vegetable-forward, balanced midsummer meal — the meat. In this case, it is boneless lamb, coated with a more-than-generous amount of crushed black pepper and coriander. You will think it is too much seasoning. It isn’t. When the meat is roasted, each slice has a zesty, peppery edge. They’re delicious atop the bean mélange: Try sliced steak or grilled chicken or fish fillets. Whatever you choose, it will all look festive and gorgeous assembled on a big platter. Pass it around.