Calypso beans are so gorgeous. They are one of those fantastic heirloom varieties that you only see when you start searching out such a thing; a bean so gorgeous, you want to wear it as jewelry, so tasty that the unique flavor and texture are impossible to describe, so miraculous that if you push it into the soil, in Spring a plant will emerge. (That simple fact never fails to thrill me).
Calypso beans, also called orca beans because of their unique black and white coloring, are known as fantastic soup beans, as they hold their shape and color well, and the texture is divine; smooth and creamy but not at all mushy. They are not exactly easy to find, but because of their beautiful coloring and taste, they are much sought after. I got mine from Seed Savers Exchange, when I ordered some heirloom seeds last year, and they are also available online from Lonesome Whistle Farm in Oregon (local to you PNWesters!) through Local Harvest.
The minestrone makes a simple and satisfying meal. The recipe is easily adaptable to local, seasonal ingredients, and can be topped with herb or walnut pesto, homemade croutons, a swirl of herbed olive oil or a local, artisanal cheese. We had some Cowgirl Creamery Pierce Pt cheese in the house (a New Year’s gift from our friends Melissa & Erik) and that, with this soup, was divine.
Calypso Bean Minestrone
- ½ lb dried calypso beans (to yield 3 cups cooked beans with broth)
- 1 medium yellow or white onion, divided
- 5 cloves garlic, divided
- 2 tbsp bacon grease or olive oil
- ½ to 1 tsp fennel seeds (or one medium bulb fresh fennel, chopped)
- 3 cups chopped kale (frozen)
- 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- ½ lb green beans, sliced to 2-inch lengths (fresh or frozen)
- 2 tsp Kosher salt, or to taste
- ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
- goat cheese or brie-style soft cheese for garnish
- Soak and cook the beans. I soaked the beans for about 6 hours, then simmered over low heat, in the soaking water, with ¼ of the onion and 2 smashed garlic cloves, for about 1 and ½ hours. Add 1 tsp of salt about halfway through the cooking time. When the beans are tender but still a bit al dente, turn off the heat and allow them to sit in the bean broth.
- Chop the remaining onion to ¼-inch dice and mince the remaining garlic cloves. Heat the grease or oil over medium flame in a soup pot or Dutch oven. Add the onion, garlic, ½ tsp fennel seed (or chopped fresh fennel) and a pinch of salt and saute over medium-low heat until vegetables are translucent, about 7 minutes. Add the chopped kale and saute until wilted and fragrant, about 2-3 minutes (longer if using fresh kale). Add the stock and another pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes.
- Drain the calypso beans, reserving the bean broth. Add calypso and green beans to the soup along with 2 cups of the bean broth (or more, if the soup is very thick). Simmer for 15 minutes.
- Taste and add black pepper, salt and more fennel as needed. Add additional bean broth to round out flavor and/or if the soup is very thick. Serve garnished with a dollop of fresh goat cheese, or a thin slice of brie.
- The original recipe called for borlotti beans, a cranberry variety that would work nicely here. The original also called for fresh cabbage in place of kale and a garnish of arugula pesto. I think mint pesto would work well with this dish, but we both loved the flavor and creaminess of the melted Cowgirl Creamery Pierce Pt cheese.
- Make a 100% local version with beans from Cayuga Pure Organics and fresh fennel from the farmer’s market.
Refrigerated, for up to 5 days, or frozen for up to 1 month (after which the beans start to lose texture).