Look for fresh shell beans, still in pods at your farmers' markets. This time I used cranberry beans, not being able to resist their vibrant, mottled pink pods. I also added a few handfuls of butter beans, and of course favas (which I can get here at the market through November). Most beans you can pop right out of the pod and throw into a pot of boiling water to cook. Favas you need to remove the beans from their big outer pods, give them a quick boil (a minute or two), drain, rinse with cold water to cool them off, and then pop them out of their light colored inner shell. Intensive but worth it.
I buy fresh gnocchi from a pasta maker at the farmers' market as well. Throw them right in a well-seasoned pan with some clarified butter, toss and let them brown on each side, no boiling. This is not a typo.
fresh shell beans (try a mix of fava, cranberry beans, butter beans), shelled, roughly three cups of beans
1 pound fresh gnocchi
1/2 pound chanterelle mushrooms (optional - if you can't get chanterelles, skip the mushrooms)
a few sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves only
3 medium shallots, thinly sliced
a big handful of small cherry tomatoes, halved
clarified butter or extra virgin olive oil
splash of cream (optional)
freshly grated parmesan (optional)
Take the shelled beans and cook each type of bean in its own pot of water. They will take between 10 and 20 minutes to cook (taste to tell when they are done). Drain and salt to taste. Set aside. See header notes re: fava beans.
Heat a couple tablespoons of clarified butter (or olive oil) in a large well-seasoned (or non-stick) skillet over medium-high heat. Add the gnocchi in a single layer and toss to coat with the butter. Let them cook until they are golden brown on the bottoms and then use a metal spatula to flip the gnocchi. Cook until they are golden all over. Salt, transfer to a platter and set aside.
Clean out that same big skillet, add a bit more butter or oil, and over medium-high heat saute the mushrooms, shallots and thyme along with a few pinches of salt and pepper. The mushrooms will release a bit of moisture, keep cooking, and let them get a bit of color (another minute or two).
Toss the cooked shell beans into the skillet with the mushrooms, add the tomatoes and cook for another few seconds. Remove from heat and stir in a splash of cream if you like. Pour the beans and mushrooms over the gnocchi and sprinkle with grated parmesan.
Serve family style on a big plate or platter.
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