Kidney Beans with Apples and Sherry

MAKES: 4 servings

TIME: 20 minutes with cooked beans

Sauting produces a texture completely different from that of stewed bean dishes, with distinct, separate ingredients. The apples make this dish especially nice with simple boiled cabbage or other greens and a thick slice of hearty whole grain bread. Vegan with oil instead of butter.

Other beans you can use: any firm and nutty or rich-flavored beans, like appaloosa, cranberry, pinto, or edamame.

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or butter, plus a little more for garnish (optional)

2 shallots, sliced, or 1 small onion, chopped

11/2 cups chopped or sliced Golden Delicious or Granny Smith apples

2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves

1/4 cup dry (fino) sherry

3 cups cooked or canned kidney beans, drained but still moist

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put the 2 tablespoons oil or butter in a large skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot or the butter is melted, add the shallots and the apples and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and golden, 5 to 7 minutes.

Add the thyme and sherry; bring to a boil and cook until nearly dry, about 2 minutes. Add the beans and a good sprinkling of salt and pepper; cook for 5 minutes or so. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve hot, with a pat of butter or a drizzle of olive oil over the top if you like.

Variations

Kidney Beans with Pears and Wine. Replace the apples with chopped or sliced firm pears and substitute rosemary for the thyme and dry white wine for the sherry.

Kidney Beans with Apples and Red Wine. For a richly colored and flavored dish: Use kidney beans and a simple dry red wine instead of the sherry.

Piquant Kidney Beans with Prunes. A sweet-and-sour variation: Replace the apples with 1 cup halved pitted prunes, the thyme with cilantro, and the sherry with 2 teaspoons tamarind paste (or brown sugar) and 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar.

Hot and Smoky Kidney Beans with Chipotle and Dried Cherries. Replace the apples with 1/2 cup dried cherries and 1 or 2 canned chipotle chiles (with their adobo to taste), the thyme with cilantro, and the sherry with tequila or beer if you like.