Cooking With Farmers: Clarita Coleman's Scarlet Runner Beans
Clarita Coleman at the Wednesday Santa Monica Farmers Market
When fantastic farmers -- and cooks -- like Clarita Coleman matter-of-factly say things like, "I don't write anything down," you stop to jot that recipe down. If there even is a recipe. With Coleman, you're likely to get a basic cooking outline. But really, with beans this fresh, that's all you need.
The co-owner of Coleman Family Farms makes dinner most nights from the gorgeous produce lining in the family's Carpenteria backyard: baby lettuces, purple amaranth, chard, kale and an ever-changing menu of herbs like Persian mint and Japanese shiso. This time of year, the farm's fantastic scarlet runner beans (Ayocote morado) are on Coleman's stove. "Cook a big pot, and then use them in salad the next day with a little olive oil," she says.
Clarita Coleman's Herb Juice
Coleman's anything-goes cooking mantra extends to pretty much everything in her kitchen. "I just put whatever I have in them," she says of the sea green bottles of herb-packed juices that are usually stashed in the back of the family's truck for a quick farmers market energy boost (chocolate mint and basil often make appearances; mango, Persian lime juice and guava might fill out the juicer).
Those purple runner beans, native to Mexico, are among the first domesticated crops in Mesoamerica; now the plants are grown around the world for both their beans and edible flowers. "Oaxaca," clarifies Coleman of their origin. They're gorgeous, violet-colored beans with a few errant lavender beans tossed into the mix (they will all be deep purple by they time you turn off the stove).
Scarlet Runner Beans from Coleman Farms
Cook them long enough, and they're incredibly creamy. As Steve Sando says in The Rancho Gordo Heirloom Bean Grower's Guide, "You can keep cooking them well beyond their 'done' point as their texture goes from russet potato to creamy goodness."
Coleman soaks the beans in water overnight, then cooks them with a little sautéed onion, garlic, and chili flakes for an hour and a half or until tender (we cooked ours for a little over 2 hours to get to that creamy point). Coleman usually adds a generous handful of herbs, whatever she has on hand, while the beans are cooking (recently: two different varieties of thyme). Halfway through the cooking process, she seasons the beans with a little salt.
Coleman may not be much for writing down recipes. But she'll likely remind you, as you walk away with those beans: "Remember, put some olive oil on them the next day for lunch. So good." Indeed.
½ pound bags ($3 each) of Coleman Family Farms' scarlet runner beans are available at many Los Angeles-area farmers markets, including the Wednesday Santa Monica market.
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