Scarlet Runner Bean & Blackened Tomato Stew

What You'll Need

  • large bowl for soaking beans
  • large stock pot
  • cookie sheet or baking tray
  • medium saucepan
  • medium cast iron skillet
  • large colander
  • emersion blender or high speed blender
  • good kitchen knife and cutting surface
  • 1 cup dry scarlet runner beans
  • 4 1/2 pounds fresh tomatoes; 2 1/2 pounds for sauce, 2 for blackening
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh hot pepper, or a pinch of dried chili flakes
  • Apple cider vinegar to taste, about 2 teaspoons
  • Sunflower oil
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped thyme
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

This recipe comes to us from the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center Cookbook, which is well-thumbed this time of year. Now our copy has a few soup stains on the page with this recipe, the mark of a well-loved cookbook.  Scarlet Runner Beans are beloved of gardeners, butterflies, and children alike. Perennial, vigorous, and prolific, they will rapidly cover a teepee, fence, or trellis with brilliant red blooms. Many a September gardener has been left staring at handfulls of the mottled purple, black, and brown beans, peering at them closely, as if the vibrant patterns on their skin might reveal…what to do with them. They are huge, thick skinned and mysterious. Luckily, despite their size and confounding colors, the beans cook down to a creamy, savory texture. This recipe is pure September; the end of season runner beans, the tomatoes red and ready for harvest, the weather cool enough, in the evening, to make a bowl of savory stew sound like just the thing. It is just the thing.

Makes 4 servings.
NOTE: Make sure to leave time to soak the beans beforehand overnight. 
summer harvest


1) Soak the beans

Sort the beans, removing any rocks or debris from the beans. Soak the sorted beans overnight in plenty of water, and rinse them before cooking. 
soaking beans

2) Cook the beans

In a large soup pot, add the beans, and enough water to cover by several inches. Don’t salt the beans until after they are thoroughly cooked; salt added to beans before they are fully cooked hardens the skins. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until completely cooked through. Depending on the freshness of your beans, this may take all of 2 hours. Drain and rinse.


3) Roast the sauce tomatoes

While the beans are cooking, cut the large sauce tomatoes in half. Drizzle the halves with the olive oil and salt. Roast on a baking tray for 30-40 minutes, until they are wrinkled and browned.
roasted tomatoes

4) Make the tomato sauce

Transfer the roasted tomatoes to a large soup pot. Blend with an immersion blender.
blending tomato saucePut a dash of oil in a skillet on medium heat, add the garlic and hot pepper, and saute for 1 minute, until the garlic mellows just a little. Add to the tomato puree.
cooking onion, peppers and garlic

5) Combine tomatoes and beans

Stir the cooked beans into the seasoned tomato sauce. Stew on a low simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes or so, until the beans absorb some of the liquid and the sauce thickens a bit. Taste and season with apple cider vinegar, salt, and pepper.
tomato bean stew

6) Char the tomatoes

When you are ready to serve the soup, cut the blackening tomatoes in half. Heat up a cast iron skillet on high, and add a shy drizzle of sunflower oil (Too much prevents a good char from forming.) Place the tomatoes cut side down, and resist the urge to move them or peek.

charred tomatoesLeave them to char until you literally smell them burning, at least a few minutes. With one smooth swift motion, pressing firmly underneath them with a thin, sharp spatula to preserve the crust, flip the tomatoes over and let them brown, skin side down, for another few minutes.

blackened tomatoes

7) Garnish and serve

To serve, top the stew with fresh thyme and parsley, and individually place whole blackened tomatoes into each bowl. This stew pairs excellently with soft polenta or crusty bread.


Over to You...

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