In an earlier blog entry I’ve written about my love of beans. It seems that heirloom beans are experiencing a revival as more chefs and home cooks experiment with the many varieties being cultivated by farmers. The September issue of The National Culinary Review ran an article about heirloom beans coming into their own, and I was interviewed by the writer, Clare Leschin-Hoar. I have included the portion of the article that includes my interview. I hope you enjoy, and I hope you’ll experiment with cooking beans on your own. Let me know what varieties you enjoy!
“Beans’ versatility and broad appeal has won them steadfast fans. Among them is John Ash, an instructor at The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone, St. Helena, Calif., who challenges each of his students to ‘adopt’ an heirloom bean in an effort to keep endangered varieties in the marketplace.
‘I think beans are coming to the forefront in a way they haven’t been before’, says Ash. ‘There are a certain group of chefs who distinguish themselves by finding things people aren’t familiar with and presenting them in interesting ways. If you’re Italian and cook in an Italian way, you stay with the beans you know. I think the opportunity for all of us is there are hundreds of varieties of beans. There is more opportunity to be creative with beans in a way that we aren’t yet. Look beyond traditional dishes. Look at it as a center-of-the-plate proposition rather than a side dish.’
Be more creative, Ash urges. He includes himself in the challenge. He’s selected the gigandes bean as his own, and is using it in as many ways as he can. ‘It’s a big, beautiful white bean. When it cooks, it can be an inch across. I like to use it in any dish that might have used a piece of fish, and I use the bean, instead. For example, it becomes my scallop- my much-less-expensive ingredient to replace an expensive protein,’ he says.”
— Excerpted from “Counting Beans”, written by ClareLeschin-Hoar, The National Culinary Review, September 2010