Favorite Colors

October 3, 2011

When I was a little girl, my favorite colors were pink, purple, and red.  In that order.  Tomboy I was not.  I wasn’t overly froufy but I did love to wear dresses and pretend jewelry, I begged my mom to let me get my ears pierced when I was six (she let me), and I could not wait until the day when I could wear makeup.

In seventh grade, I changed schools and it was suddenly not cool at all to wear dresses or skirts.  Jeans only and those jeans had to be Levi 501’s – the kind that you bought indigo blue and stiff as a board, and had to wash a million times to get them to look cool at all.  I pretended, in those years, that I liked wearing jeans that were clearly cut for male bodies and that my favorite color was blue.  I got a blue ski jacket and painted my bedroom blue and all the while I missed pink.  And purple.  And red.  And dresses.

Somewhere along the line, in high school, I reclaimed myself and my girly ways.  I wore dresses again and became known for my love of purple because, at some point in those blue years, purple overcame pink as my true favorite.

The only way this ties back to food is beans.  This is the time of year when school starts and when I start seeing fresh shelling beans at the markets.  Do these cranberries beans look like something found nature?  Or something that might be found, say, in my closet.  Or something that my kids would color for me because they are now aware of the concept of having a favorite color and they know what mine is.   I gathered all the ingredients for a stew at my farmers’ market and it all is so beautiful, is it not?

Sometimes cooking is just assembling really great ingredients and doing just a bit to bring out their flavors.  When you are using peak of the season produce, it’s easy to make something delicious.  This is not to say that this stew makes itself.  I took the time to roast the squash because I like it best that way but you could certainly just add it raw along with the potatoes to save yourself a step and a baking sheet to wash.  You also need to cook the beans separately but seeing as these are fresh, it only takes a half hour or so.  At my markets, you will often see the beans pre-shelled for you.  It is nice that someone did the dirty work for you and I used to buy them that way.  But the truth is that the beans in the pods are much fresher, they are cheaper, and shelling them is even easier to do than shelling peas.

One Year Ago:  Braised Purple Cabbage with Apples, Pecan Molasses Bundt Cake with Bourbon Glaze
Two Years Ago:  Carrot Soup with Ginger and Lemon, Soba Noodles with Mushrooms and Bok Choy, Holly B’s Peanut Butter Brownies
Three Years Ago:  Dimply Plum Cake

Cranberry Bean Stew with Maple Roasted Delicata Squash and Sage
Dana Treat Original
Serves 4

1½ pounds delicata squash, cut in half, seeded, and cut into ¾-inch chunks
Olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 tbsp. maple syrup
1 cup fresh shelling beans
1 medium red onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
1 pound new potatoes, cut into 1-inch chunks
½ cup dry white wine
1 red bell pepper, seeded, diced
2 cups vegetable broth
½ bunch Swiss chard, leaves only, chopped
4 sage leaves, slivered, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 400ºF.  Place the squash chunks on a baking sheet and drizzle with about 2 tablespoons olive oil, a large pinch of salt, a few grinds of pepper, and the maple syrup.  Using your hands, toss well.  Place in the oven for 10 minutes.  Remove and flip the pieces over, return to the oven and bake for another 10 minutes, or until completely tender and browning in spots.  Remove and set aside.

Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil.  Pour in the beans and cook, keeping the water at a mellow boil, until the beans are tender but not mushy, about 25 minutes.  Drain and set aside.

Heat a large soup pot over medium heat.  Add just enough olive oil to coat the bottom and then add the onion along with a large pinch of salt.  Sauté until starting to soften, about 5 minutes, then add the garlic.  Give it a stir, then add the thyme leaves.  Stir in the potatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are browned in spots, about 8 minutes.  Things will start to stick but don’t worry about it.

Pour in the wine and scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pot.  Stir in the red pepper.  Pour in the broth and bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer and cover.  Cook until potatoes are just tender, about 10 minutes.  Remove the cover and add the squash and the beans.  Stir well, then add the chard.  Continue to cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until the stew is heated through, the chard has wilted slightly, and the potatoes are fully cooked, about another 10 minutes.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve in shallow bowls garnished with fresh sage leaf slivers.


  1. Gorg!

    Love the colors, love the tastes, love fall. LOVELOVELOVE.

    Comment by Bev Weidner — October 3, 2011 @ 2:17 pm

  2. Everything about this post is beautiful.

    We can get purple potatoes down here, but the beans are all green. I wonder why we don’t have purply beans??

    I’m also always looking for more ways with delicata squash. Home run, Dana! (I’d wear a dress in your honor, but I’m such a jeans girl it would only look silly on me.)

    Comment by cheryl — October 3, 2011 @ 5:02 pm

  3. I always become hypnotized by the fresh cranberry beans at the farmer’s market. their color is like no other!

    It’s definitely true that the delicious flavors at this time of year need only the tiniest bit of prodding to be turned into something beautiful! This stew sounds amazing…comfort food heaven.

    Comment by Joanne — October 3, 2011 @ 5:54 pm

  4. Lovely post! I’m commenting while on vacation in gloriously warm and sunny San Diego, and was dreading our return to Ohio tomorrow until your words, photos and recipe reminded me of everything that is wonderful about autumn where the seasons do change. Now I can’t wait to get home to see the burgundy mums and purple kale flowering in our garden, to start cooking heartier meals with the best of fall’s goregous jewel-toned vegetables, and to (sorry) pull on a pair of faded Levi’s with my favorite aubergine-colored cashmere sweater. And best of luck with your new postition at the cookbook/culinary store…sounds great!

    Comment by Jana — October 4, 2011 @ 1:27 am

  5. Dana- love this post and I’ve been thinking about it since I read it cause I was sure I’d never find the ingredients and was sad to miss out on such a healthy beautiful dish.. and then today, I found the delicata squash at the farmer’s market today. they had them labelled “Sweet Potato Squash”- so I asked the young lad “do these have another name?”.. he says, “let me ask my uncle” and out comes the farmer himself who says “yeah, they’re called delicata but no one was buying them when I labelled them like that.” I was so excited to have found them that a nice older woman said “I want to buy them too if she’s that excited”.. so I told her about your site and the recipe that inspired me. I hope she’s making it too! No fresh shelling beans for us though, so it will be dried cranberry beans for me.

    Comment by catherine — November 5, 2011 @ 11:07 pm

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