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Shell Beans with Butternut Squash, Bacon and Sage

Woodsy fresh sage pairs nicely with a variety of autumnal ingredients like creamy-textured cubes of sweet butternut squash and earthy-tasting shelling beans. Toasted nuts and salty bacon lend welcome contrasting flavors and textures to round out the dish.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup pecan halves
  • 1 lb. fresh shell beans such as cranberry beans, shelled
  • 1 small butternut squash, about 1 1/2 lb., peeled, cut in half lengthwise and seeded
  • 2 high-quality, thick bacon slices
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. minced fresh sage
  • Extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Directions:

Preheat an oven to 375°F.

Pour the pecans onto a rimmed baking sheet. Toast in the oven until they turn a shade or two darker and are fragrant, 6 to 8 minutes. Pour the nuts onto a plate to cool.

Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil over high heat. Add the beans to the boiling water, reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the beans are tender but not falling apart, 25 to 30 minutes. Make sure that the water is always about an inch above the beans. Drain the beans and set aside.

Cut the squash flesh into 1/2-inch dice.

Heat a nonstick fry pan over medium heat. Add the bacon slices and cook, turning once, until browned and crisp, 7 to 9 minutes. Transfer the bacon to paper towels to drain. Pour off all but 1 Tbs. of the bacon fat from the pan. When the bacon has cooled, cut it crosswise into 1/4-inch pieces.

Return the fry pan to the stovetop over medium-high heat. Add the squash and cook, stirring frequently, until lightly browned and just tender when pierced with a sharp knife, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the sage and beans, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until the beans are heated through and the flavors are blended, about 1 minute. Stir in the bacon and pecans.

Transfer the mixture to a warmed platter and serve immediately. Serves 4.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma New Flavors for Vegetables, by Jodi Liano (Oxmoor House, 2008).