My Friday lunch hour at TomatoLand, a farmer’s market in Tallahassee, yielded a few delights in addition to the fresh fried oysters they were serving up for lunch. The Georgia peaches were perfectly ripe and the colors of a beachy sunset. We have gotten in the habit of making fresh peach iced tea on the weekends, so I loaded up on peaches. Vidalia onions beckoned, as did plump Inchelium Red garlic. I didn’t buy a lot of other veggies, because we grow most of our own, but they had fresh rhubarb in the fridge. It is hard to find fresh rhubarb, and I knew my husband and daughter would enjoy a strawberry-rhubarb pie. But that’s another post…
While my oysters were frying up in the kitchen, an exploration of the little gourmet shop at TomatoLand led me to local stone-ground grits from Bradley’s Country Store. Bradley’s still uses the mill that has been in their family for generations, and I have been anxious to give the grits a try. I also picked up locally smoked bacon, because it is a requirement for weekend cooking.
As I waited to pay for my goodies, I spied a bag of gorgeous dried Calypso beans. From the simple way they were packaged, I had to assume they were local, too, and I had to have them. With their unusual black and white markings, Calypso beans are also known as Yin/Yang or Dalmatian beans. It doesn’t take much effort to make up a fabulous pot of beans, richly flavored with onion, garlic and more of that smoky bacon.
I soaked the pretty beans overnight, and on Saturday afternoon, when the heat and humidity drove me into the blessed air-conditioning of my kitchen, I pulled out my treasured Le Creuset pot, and started the beans. A gift I received at P. Allen Smith’s Garden2Blog event, I love my Le Creuset French oven because it cooks evenly and has a wonderful weight to it. It goes from stove-top, to oven, to table with style. My Le Creuset French Oven is perfect for one-pot dishes like these simple Calypso beans or for something a little more complicated, like coq au vin or jambalaya. Topped with a drizzle of fruity olive oil, a little Parmesan, and crispy fried sage leaves from the garden, the Calyspo beans will make an easy Saturday night supper with a little crusty bread and a light green salad.
Calypso Beans with Fried Sage Leaves
1 pound Calypso Beans (or dried pinto beans)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 of a large onion, chopped (approximately 1 1/2 to 2 cups)
3 garlic cloves, smashed
1/2 cup to 1 cup chopped smoky bacon or country ham
Soak the beans for 6 or more hours in enough water to generously cover them, or bring them to a boil and let them simmer until tender (1-2 hours).
In a large pan, heat the olive oil, then add the onion and garlic and cook until they are soft, about 5 minutes. Add the beans and 5-6 cups of water and bring to a boil. Lower heat and let simmer until the beans are soft, checking them regularly for a nice consistency. Mine took a little over an hour at a low simmer. To serve the beans, top them with a drizzle of olive oil, freshly-grated Parmesan cheese, and for a special treat, fried sage leaves.
Fried Sage Leaves
1 bunch fresh sage
1/4 cup olive oil
Pinch off leaves from sage. Heat oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Fry 6–8 sage leaves at a time until crisp, 2–3 seconds. Transfer with a fork to paper towels and sprinkle generously with coarse salt.