These days, the food at my farmers’ market looks more Mediterranean than ever, with the last of the season’s peppers, squash, tomatoes and several varieties of shell beans on display. The most common varieties at my farmers’ market are mottled pink and white cranberry beans, also known as borlotti beans; large scarlet runner beans that are mottled and purple, despite the name; and pale yellow cannellini beans. They are easy to shell and take less than half the time to cook than their dried counterparts.Once cooked, they have a wonderful, velvety, creamy texture and a fresh, sweet and earthy flavor. Simmered with aromatics, the beans produce a light, comforting broth. Last week, one farmer was selling generous, irresistible bunches of leeks. It occurred to me that these sweet alliums would partner beautifully with the shell beans in a ragout. I made a bouquet garni and wrapped the herbs and Parmesan rind into a piece of dark leek green that I had cut away from the stalk. I simmered the bouquet garni, half an onion and garlic with the beans initially, then discarded the onion and garlic after 30 minutes. Then, I stirred in a generous mix of leeks, tomatoes, celery and garlic cooked in olive oil for the last 15 minutes.I also added a sliced, sturdy yellow pattypan squash, which contributed to the beauty and texture of this one-dish meal.Recipe:INGREDIENTS1 to 1 1/4 pounds fresh shell beans, such as borlotti or scarlet runner beans, shelled (about 1 3/4 to 2 cups, shelled)1/2 onion3 plump garlic cloves; 1 crushed, 2 mincedBouquet garni made with a few sprigs parsley and thyme, Parmesan rind and a bay leaf, wrapped in a leek leaf and tied with twineSalt2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil2 large leeks, white and light green parts only, halved and cut in 1/2-inch slices1 celery stalk, chopped1 cup peeled, seeded and chopped tomatoes (about 3/4 pound)Ground black pepper1 good-size pattypan squash or other summer squash, quartered and sliced 1/4 inch thick (about 2 cups)Slivered fresh basil leaves for garnishFreshly grated Parmesan for garnishPREPARATIONStep 1In a heavy soup pot or Dutch oven, combine the shell beans, onion, crushed garlic clove, bouquet garni and 4 cups water. Bring to a boil. Add salt to taste, reduce heat, cover and simmer 30 minutes. Remove and discard onion and garlic clove.Step 2Meanwhile, heat olive oil over medium heat in a medium skillet and add leeks and celery. Cook, stirring, until they begin to soften, about 3 minutes, and stir in minced garlic. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, 30 seconds to a minute, and add tomatoes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until tomatoes have cooked down slightly, about 10 minutes.Step 3Stir leek and tomato mixture into beans, along with summer squash. Bring back to a simmer and cook 15 minutes, until beans are creamy-tender but intact and the vegetables are soft and fragrant. Taste and adjust seasonings. Remove bouquet garni.Step 4Ladle ragout into wide bowls. Top each serving with a generous sprinkling of slivered basil leaves and a spoonful of Parmesan.© 2015 New York Times News Service
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