The busy time of the preserving year is just about finished here in beautiful Gippsland, Victoria dairy country. I have had a lot of produce from the garden this year, thanks to my efforts in the autumn of 2017 with regards to soil amendments. I practice organic gardening principles of feeding up the soil, rather than the plants. The garden continues to produce at the tail end of the season; especially this year with this small drought and warmer temperatures that has plagued us since December. The summer vegetable production will soon cease with the colder nights we are experiencing. We harvested yet more tomatoes which were turned into another session of tomato passata making for bottling. We managed to do five passata making sessions this season. We did the last session this week. There are still green and semi green tomatoes out in the garden and I will turn these into some pickles. The potatoes are in the fridge at the moment. Mainly lovely Russet Burbank spuds in this harvest which are good for baking.
The last bucket of flat beans was harvested. There is still another round of Purple King climbing beans in the vegie patch because I tend to stagger crops as much as possible. I will let these swell and harvest the seeds to freeze. Some of the pods I will keep until dry as these will be my seeds for this next season. The flat green beans are called Plaza and were a favourite with my deceased family for decades. I topped and tailed most of these, blanched them and cooled them off in cold water in the kitchen sink. The beans were laid out on freezer trays and quickly frozen. Once frozen, the beans were bagged up in a zip lock freezer bag for winter time use. The rest of the beans I turned into a delicious bean salad; a recipe that has been in my family for generations and a real mainstay of the summer/autumn dining table.
I soaked some dried butter beans overnight for this recipe and then cooked the beans until soft but not falling apart. The other way of cooking dried beans is to bring them to the boil in some water, boil them for two minutes, turn off the heat and put the pot lid on. Set the timer for one hour during which time the beans will have soaked up the water. Add around half a litre of fresh water and gently boil the beans until tender. This may take from 30 to 50 minutes, depending upon the age of the beans. I crunch a bean between my teeth and there should not be any gritty pieces at all. The beans are ready. I cooked cannellini beans the same way in the “Country Notes: Cannellini Bean Spread” blog post.
Steam up some topped and tailed flat beans until just tender. Do not overcook the flat beans. You can tell if these beans are cooked to the correct level of softness by simply folding one over. If the bean folds over easily and just starts to split, cooking must cease. Drain off and place in a bowl with the butter beans. Immediately drizzle over some extra virgin olive oil, white balsamic vinegar, a spoon full of whole grain mustard, salt and pepper to taste and squirt over some white balsamic glaze. Dress this salad whilst the beans are hot as they will absorb the wonderful flavours of the dressing. Toss everything about gently to ensure the dressing ingredients are nicely spread out.
Serve this salad warm with a thick slice of pasta dura (hard crust) bread. Use the bread to sop up the dressing when you have finished the salad. The vinegary sops are delicious; especially if you drop in some mozarella and enjoy that with the sops laden bread. Another way of serving this delicious salad is to place the slice of decent bread on the plate and then serve the salad on top. None of that presliced stuff mind you but a decent, crusty bread that you hunk off the loaf with a bread knife. The dressing will permeate the bread. Plain delicious, if you ask me. My late parents and uncles always used to add plenty of chopped up raw garlic to their bean salads. The choice is yours. Ambrosia either way. Simplicity at its best; fresh from the garden to the dining table. As with a lot of my cooking, this delicious bean salad will often be the star attraction of the midday meal; the “planet” surrounded by a constellation of adjuncts. Meat is rarely served at our table. I really could not want for anything else on the plate.