After walking for at least a few hours too long, it was like a little oasis in a concrete desert, where the quiet streets suddenly opened up and came to life. Bombarded by unidentifiable but delicious cooking aromas, colors and shapes of exotic produce, and people hustling about like busy worker bees in their hive, the Naschmarkt is no hum-drum little farmer’s market. Boasting fruits and vegetables that I had only seen in photos and videos previously, it’s truly a foodie paradise. Easily entertained by just your average grocery expedition, I could have easily spent hours examining the seemingly endless lines of stalls, each hawking something different and unique, but not all members of our pack felt the same way, to say the least. Giving me the evil eye at every turn, my sister looked ready to bite my head off if I dragged her to yet another stand of boring old vegetables. Bored, tired, and without the same culinary inclinations as myself, she would have easily chosen to be just about anywhere else on the planet at that moment. I had to be hasty about this if I wanted any peace for the rest of the journey across Europe- And it is a pretty big place, after all.
So of all things, from the amazing array of rare edibles, it should figure that my impulse buy was of perhaps one of the least spectacular offerings; Beans. Yes, just dried beans.
But if you take one look at these beauties, you might just understand why. Speckled with black polka dots across their vibrant purple skins, I had never seen anything like them, nor did I even know what they were. Labeled as “Käfer Bohnen,” my most basic understanding of German cooking words only allowed me to understand that they were in fact ____ Beans. Enlightening, no? But I grabbed a bag of them anyway, planning to do more research once they were safely home.
Surprisingly little information about the käfer bohnen exists, but I could at least discern that it translates roughly to “beetle bean,” and cooks in about 1 – 2 hours after soaking. Good enough for me! Sadly, they do lose some of their violet hue after such a long, hot bath, but it’s a sacrifice worth making. Creamy on the inside but still possessing a firm bite, they are truly delightful little legumes.
To highlight this unique bean, I decided to pair them with blanched green beans, very lightly cooked so that they retain their crispness, and dressed simply in a German/Austrian-inspired vinaigrette. Other large, flat beans like broad beans or fava beans could probably make a fine substitute, but I will be quite sad when my little souvenir is all used up.
Bonen Salat (Austrian Bean Salad)
1 Cup Dry Beetle Beans (or Fava Beans, Broad Beans, or Butter Beans), Soaked Overnight
1 Bay Leaf
3/4 Pound Fresh Green Beans
1/2 Medium Red Onion, Thinly Sliced
1/2 Cup White Vinegar
1/4 Cup Mild Vegetable Oil
2 Cloves Garlic, Finely Minced
1/2 Teaspoon Dried Dill
1 Tablespoon Light Agave Nectar
Salt and Pepper, to Taste
First things first, get a big pot of water on the stove and bring it to a boil. Add in your soaked beans and bay leaf, and cook until tender but not splitting apart, about 1 – 2 hours depending on what bean you choose and how old they are. To save water, I blanched my green beans right in the same pot. Once the beans are just about done, add in the cleaned and trimmed green beans, and let them cook for just 2 – 3 minutes, until bright green. Drain and quickly plunge the beans into ice water to stop the cooking and preserve the color of the green beans. Discard the bay leaf, and toss in the sliced onion.
To make the dressing, simply whisk together all of the remaining ingredients and pour them over the beans. Toss gently to coat, cover, and refrigerate for at least 3 – 4 hours before serving so that the flavors can meld. There will be a lot of excess dressing at the bottom of the bowl, but don’t cut back- It helps to cover more of the goods while they sit. Just drain the salad slightly before serving.
Serves 4 – 6 as a Side Dish