Refritos, Northern Style


The other day I scooped up a load of shell beans grown on a local farm. They may have been cranberry beans; they weren't labeled, and it's been a dozen years since I grew them myself, so I'm not sure. The glossy beans popped easily from their thin, leathery pods. Some were nearly burgundy, others pale green.


I simmered them for about forty-five minutes with bay and a little olive oil. Once they were tender, I drained them and sautéed with garlic and lots of cracked black pepper.

They were wonderful: lightly browned and crisp on the outside, creamy and sweet and earthy on the inside. Served with a drizzle of fruity olive oil, crusty bread, and salad, they made a perfect fall meal.

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  • Allison, thanks for your note. Yes, these beans are so simple—humble, even—and yet when they’re cooked fresh like this they can be very nuanced. This dish shows what I call “the magic of three:” a main element (beans), a main complement (garlic), and a third, bright element that rounds these out (pepper). The fruity oil helps, too, though it tends to stay in the background.

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