KQED Food Blog: Bay Area Bites: Rainy Saturdays at the Ferry Building
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Thursday, February 02, 2006
Rainy Saturdays at the Ferry Building

While winter's rainy weekends days may keep a lot of people snug in their homes, feasting on leftover thick stews or curled up with a good book, they are my personal haven at the Ferry Building's Farmers Market. Getting to work around nine or ten o'clock on sunny Saturdays ensures that I will not get to do any grocery shopping before I start my shift. And, since the crowds only increase as the day progresses, it will take my entire lunch break just to navigate the masses of humanity thronging the Ferry Building as I try to get and eat my lunch. No grocery shopping is possible for me then either.

Last Saturday, I was easily able to scoot around the guys broom-pushing the pools of water off to the side and make my way to Star Route Farms to pick up two sheafs of lovely peppermint-striped Chioggia beets. Next, I peeled off to Heirloom Organic Farms for their beautifully showcased and carefully mixed winter lettuces. When I have this kind of time to thoughtfully meander around the stalls, I always discover something new or remember to pick up something that I've been wanting to try for a long time. This time, my big thrill came from finally landing two bags of Rancho Gordo beans; one crinkly plastic package of small milky-green Flageolet beans and another stuffed with big, flat, white Runner Cannellinis.

The great thing about Steve Sando's dried beans from Napa and the Delta is that they are so fresh, they require only minimal soaking. Some don't even need to be soaked at all. I find that pretty sweet, I must say. After being soaked for a few hours -- not needing the 24-hour treatment that drier, older beans require -- the Runner Cannellinis spread out impressively, totally doubling in size. Don't think I'm weird, but I sort of get a kick out of watching dried beans expand. After a bit of time in their tepid bath, they start to prune and look utterly horrific. Not long later, the wrinkles begin disappear as the beans plump, soften, and fill out -- just like Melanie Griffith after her hourly botoxing. Anyway, I like to bake my Cannellinis in an Apilco dish and slather them up with a tangy herbed vinaigrette. After a night's complete marination in the fridge, the beans are melting and creamy on the tongue.

Cannellini Bean Salad
Serves 4

For the Cannellinis:

1 lb Rancho Gordo Runner Cannellinis, soaked for 6-8 hours
Extra-virgin olive oil

For the vinaigrette:

2 tablespoons Champange vinegar
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced

Preheat the oven to 400°

1. Put the soaked beans in an oven-proof baking dish. Apilco or china is preferable, metal can be too abrasive on the beans. Add water to cover the beans by about two inches. Slosh on a liberal amount of olive oil over the surface of the water. Cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil and poke a few venting holes in the foil. Bake the beans for about 2 hours.

2. Whisk the vingar, mustard, and minced garlic together. In a slow drizzle, add the olive oil, whisking constantly, and toss in the salt and pepper.

3. Drain the beans and set them aside to cool in a large bowl. Gently fold the vinaigrette into the cooled beans and add the minced rosemary. Put the bowl in the refrigerator and let the beans marinate overnight.

4. When ready to serve, bring the beans to room temperature and serve with a glass of Sangiovese.

Even after we finally get our Prius and can more easily jet off to Andronicos or Whole Foods for better quality fish, meat, and produce than we can currently get at the nearest Albertson's or Safeway, I will still be tonging up bagfuls of those perfect springy lettuces at Heirloom Organics and trading sympathetic sighs brought on by a rough Saturday with the Rancho Gordo guy.

Very soon it's going to warm and dry up around these parts and while I'll enjoy the weather, I'm going miss these wintry, rainy Saturdays and how pleasant and stress-free they make my weekly shopping.


Blogger cucina testa rossa said...

oh my god my water almost came out my nose, that melanie griffith comment is hilarious.

2/02/2006 2:02 PM

Blogger shuna fish lydon said...

Few people can convince me to make beans in my own house. You've just been added to the list.

2/02/2006 10:19 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the very nice words about my beans! One small correction is that they are grown in both Napa and the delta. I'm really doing everything I can to promote Northern Calif ag.
Your recipe is really appealing and I know what I'm eating for dinner tonight!

2/03/2006 12:17 PM

Anonymous Tana said...

Señor Gordo has made me a bean convert as well. My personal favorites are Yellow Indian Woman and the bean that got him started down this path, the Rio Zapé. Yellow Indian Woman holds her shape beautifully after cooking, and tastes like no other bean I've ever had. Rio Zapé is my bean of choice when I make a big pot of Mexican roasted chicken soup...into which I throw chiles or rajas (roasted, peeled poblanos), corn, red onion (sautéed in Stonehouse Persian Lime Olive Oil, also available at Ferry Plaza), limes, toasted cumin seeds...and whatever else catches my eye. The beans are like potatoes, in that they're friendly and humble and get along well with everybody.

Steve has really inspired me with cooking Mexican style, and I especially appreciate what he's doing to promote Northern California agriculture and heritage foods.

2/03/2006 1:06 PM

Blogger Stephanie V.W. Lucianovic said...

Oops -- sorry, Steve. I thought I read an article that said they were from the Central Valley. I will correct that. By the way, we are sending a few packages of beans to my mother-in-law in D.C. for her birthday.

2/03/2006 1:10 PM


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