It’s no secret that summer is a time of plenty for produce junkies like myself. Farms are bursting at the seams with beloved favorites of the plant kingdom -- the cherry tomatoes, green beans, and eggplants that we long for all year. When you're faced with the choice between tomatoes (that you know and love) and something a bit different and foreign looking, it’s easy to lean on the old adage “don’t fix what ain’t broke” and buy the thing that you know. And while sticking with the classics never truly disappoints, I’m here to advocate for some of my personal favorite summer varietals!
These fetching legumes look like flat versions of their green-bean brethren -- and taste like them too. Romanos can be used in any dish where you’d usually reach for traditional green beans, but I find they’re particularly well-suited for slicing diagonally, blanching quickly in salted water, and tossing into a simple salad or succotash -- Romanos’ shape hangs onto dressings and sauces beautifully. You can even slice them thinly and eat them raw when you find them on the smaller (and thus sweeter) side.
Cranberry or "Borlotti" Beans
These guys are the real movie stars of the shelling bean family -- with their silky white pods splattered with pink, it’s hard for your eye to entirely avoid them. But it can also be hard to actually pull the trigger and take some home -- particularly for those of you who tend to balk in the face of the perceived rigamarole that comes with shelling beans. If you fall into that camp, fear not -- cranberry beans are super easy to use, and better yet, even harder to mess up.
Once you’ve shelled the beans from their glamorous pods, simmer them in water in a sauce pot for about 20 minutes, until they’re cooked through and soft with that velvety texture we bean-eaters love. Be forewarned, they lose their speckles and turn to a monochromatic pinky shade of beige when cooked. It's disappointing but true. Once you have a cooked batch of Borlotti on your hands, you can add them to almost any summer dish. Fold them into a batch of garlicky grilled summer squash, or toss gently in a bowl of chopped tomatoes with basil, olive oil, and salt. However you use them, they will surely add a certain je ne sais quois.
I’ll admit, my relationship with purslane was at first a contentious one. This succulent tortures vegetable gardens as a weed all over America, so I experienced nothing short of emotional whiplash when I discovered that they were in fact a delicious and versatile edible green. Crunchy, salty, and tangy purslane is great coarsely chopped and thrown into salads, sauteed with garlic and other cooking greens, or -- my favorite -- folded into a simple potato salad with green onions, olive oil, and lots of fresh herbs. Bonus: Purslane also packs an impressive nutritional punch with more omega-3s than even some fish oils!
Don't know what to do with all your delicious vegetables? Watch the video below for some inspiration!