Cranberry Bean and Sweet Potato Stew

I've had my eye on cranberry beans since the fall. I have yet to try shelling and cooking them from scratch, but I just spotted them in Stop & Shop a few weeks ago in a can labeled "Roman Beans". Same thing. Identifiable by their light tan color and red spots.

Like any new item, I just buy it and ask questions later. I've been googling "cranberry beans" here and there over the weeks, waiting for just the right idea. During our ski weekend at Windham, my friend made both a lentil soup and a Syrian stew. When my friends made plans for a future dinner, both were mentioned again, and I realized PEOPLE LOVE SOUP. Yeah, I already knew that.

For the Roman bean stew, I started with a recipe I found for Porotos Granados, a Chilean stew. I used sweet potatoes instead of squash for an earthier flavor. It came out very hearty, like a thick vegetarian chili, without the chili powder.

The cranberry beans actually end up looking and tasting kind of like a kidney bean. The corn is key too - it gives some crunch to balance the tender potatoes and beans. The flavors mix together even better over a couple days, so you could easily make this a day or two ahead of serving.

Cranberry Bean and Sweet Potato Stew
4-6 servings, approx. 1 hour
1 T margarine or butter
1 T olive oil
   *for vegan, omit butter and use 2T olive oil
1/2 C (1 small) onion, diced
2 T (3 cloves) garlic, minced
1 T paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
3 plum tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 15.5 oz can of Roman Beans drained and rinsed (or fresh pre-cooked cranberry beans)
3 C vegetable stock
2 C (1 large) sweet potato, peeled and chopped into 1" cubes
1 C corn kernels (preferably fresh)
1/4 C fresh basil, chopped
salt & pepper

1. In a stock pot over medium heat, sauté onions in butter and oil 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute. Stir in paprika, cumin, oregano, tomatoes and beans - cook 3-5 minutes.

2. Add vegetable stock, sweet potato and about 1 tsp salt and a few grinds of pepper. Bring to a boil, and then lower heat and simmer, covered, 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

3. Add corn and basil, simmering another 5-10 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

4. Garnish with fresh basil and serve with crusty bread or toast.
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