I've been making this dish for years now, when I discovered fresh cranberry beans in their pods at the farmer's market and started searching for cranberry bean recipes. Thankfully this one came up! I've found more over the years but this is still my favorite and once more, I can make the soup ahead of time!
Thank-you Marcella Hazan!
1 1/2 lbs cranberry beans, fresh in their pods, if you can't find fresh then use dried, you can find dried at health food stores.
2/3 cup dried. Also some Latin grocery stores carry them.
3 lbs live mussels
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup finely chopped onion
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
1 cup canned Italian plum tomatoes with juice
dried red chili pepper flakes to your taste, I use about 1/4 tsp
1 loosely packed cup chopped celery leaves
Salt and black pepper ground fresh
12 large basil leaves, cut into narrow strips
After taking the cranberry beans out of their pods, put them in a pan add water enough to cover 2 inches. Cover with a lid, bring to a simmer over medium to low heat, until tender, fresh would be about 20 minutes, dried depends on how old they are, up to an hour or more, keep checking. Drain the beans but save the liquid.
Clean the mussels, getting rid of the beard if there is any and scraping off some grime. Throw away any that are opened.
Put the mussels in a pan that will hold the mussels in one layer, otherwise, do it in batches. Cover the pan, turn the heat to high, shaking the pan occasionally, once the shells open, remove them with a slotted spoon, pour the liquid into a bowl. Remove the shells from the meat, discard the shells,
Using a pan with a fitted lid that will accommodate the mussels and beans, and the liquid. Put in all the oil and the onions, without covering the pan, cook the onions over high heat, stirring from time to time, until the onions are a nice golden brown.
Add the garlic, stirring for about a minute, until the garlic is a golden color.
Add the tomatoes, breaking them up as you drop them in the pan, along with the juices, cook over high heat, stirring for about 10 minutes.
Add the chili pepper flakes and the celery leaves, turning everything over every couple of minutes.
Add the mussels to the pot, stirring gently, a couple of times.
Add the beans, stirring gently a few times.
Add the mussel liquid leaving behind any dirt that's left in the bottom of the bowl. Stir gently a few times.
Add the bean cooking liquid, just enough to have a soupy consistency. Stir, turn the heat down to low, taste and add salt if needed, freshly ground black pepper and simmer gently for about 10 minutes. This can be made ahead a few hours. When you are ready to serve, bring to a gentle simmer, until heated through, add the basil. I bring the whole pot to the table, or put into individual bowls.