This weekend I focused on stocking up on the essentials to make my "challenge" that much easier. Autumn is officially upon us and the farmers market is alive with new and exciting, yet memorable fruits and vegetables. I made my way through the market, stopping at Windrose Farms for more than 8 different varieties of heirloom apples, McGrath Farms for fresh shelling beans, Yankee Farms for spicy salad mix, Hilltop Farms for second harvest avocados and sugar pumpkin, Tutti Frutti Farms for heirloom tomatoes, Munak Ranch for Ambrosia melon, Rancho La Vina for walnuts, Spring Hill for Mike's Firehouse Cheddar, and Jimenez Family Farms for French green beans and homemade pork sausage. Yes, pork sausage. I purposefully saved the best for last.
Jimenez Family Farm is one of my favorite stops on my weekly foodie adventure through the market not only because Marcie Jimenez is one of the nicest, warmest farmers I know, but also because she has some of the best heirloom varieties of produce, pickled vegetables, pies, and of course, pork. Her autumnal stand features organic okra, corn, Romanesco zucchini and other heirloom squash, green beans, garlic, leeks, kale, chard, raspberries, and many other delectable items. She only sells her pork sausage, bacon and other piggy products at the Tuesday Santa Barbara Farmers Market, but it is well worth stopping by. Among the different types of sausage Marcie makes by hand, my personal favorite is the sweet Italian, which highlights flavors of fennel, anise and paprika. Her sausage is lean and extremely flavorful - truly the best sausage I have ever had. And best of all, her piggies aren't given hormones or antibiotics, so you can rest assured that your sausage is void of the bad stuff and full of the good stuff. I am all too excited to try her house made bacon in the coming weeks.
Marcie's sausage is raw, so you need to make sure to cook it properly before incorporating it into your favorite recipe. I most frequently steam the sausage in a shallow pan with a bit of water until it is cooked through, then fry it up in my cast iron skillet or add it to soups, stews and such. This particular recipe came to me when I saw the fresh shelling beans at McGrath's stand. I have always wanted to try a bean, sausage and tomato ragu of sorts and figured this was my best opportunity.
What I ended up with was more of a stew (for the sake of time - we were also trying to see Michael Moore's new movie, Capitalism: A Love Story, and were in a hurry to make it to the last showing), but given another 30-45 minutes to cook, it would have resembled a ragout. This is such as easy recipe and can be made in under 1 hour, most of which is baking time. If you love tomatoes, onions, sausage and beans as much as I do, I am sure you will love this dish. Try it yourself and let me know what you think.
fresh bean and fennel sausage stew
3 large heirloom tomatoes
1/2 lb fresh shelling beans
2 small sweet white onions
a few sprigs fresh herbs
3-4 links fresh pork sausage
butter, ghee or heat stable fat
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Dice up the tomatoes in large chunks and place them in a heavy ceramic or glass baking dish. Slice the onions and mix them with the tomatoes. Sprinkle with fresh herbs, a little sea salt and a heaping spoonful of fat.
While the tomatoes are roasting, shell the beans. Place them in a large, heavy pot and cover with 1 inch of water. Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes.
While the beans are simmering, prepare the sausage. Place the links in a shallow pot or pan with a 1/2 inch of water. Simmer the sausages for 5-10 minutes or until cooked through. Allow to cool and slice into 1/2" medallions.
When the beans are 75% done (tender but slightly underdone), strain them and add to the roasting tomatoes. Also mix in the sausage. Continue to roast for 30-45 minutes or until desired thickness is achieved.