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Cranberry Bean Salad with Carrots and Mojo de Ajo

Cranberry Bean Salad with Roasted Carrots and Mojo de Ajo. / Photo by: EE Berger /
Food Styling: Ross Yedinak / Prop Styling: Stephanie Potts

Adapted from Grist: A Practical Guide to Cooking Grains, Beans, Seeds, and Legumes (Chronicle Books, 2021), by Abra Berens

Abra Berens is a chef and farmer at Granor Farm in Three Oaks, Michigan. Because her cooking is tied so closely to the land she works, she has a keen sense of terroir and context. Her latest cookbook, Grist, focuses on grains and pulses like beans and lentils, tying what many of us think of as pantry staples back to where and how they were grown. For example, she became acquainted with cranberry, or borlotti, beans at Petersham Nurseries in London. Note that this recipe makes a good deal more mojo de ajo than you need—refrigerate it and serve with other meals, such as smashed beans on toast.

Cranberry Beans

Originally from Colombia, this bean was brought to Italy, where it was bred into the thicker-skinned borlotti bean. In the Americas, it’s the cranberry bean, and before cooking, it has a beautiful beige and red pattern on it. These beans cook up firm and meaty, with a nutty flavor. While pinto beans are the closest substitute, they have thicker skin and an earthier flavor.

1-pound dried cranberry beans or 3 15-ounce cans pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 onion, cut into chunks (optional)
10 sprigs thyme, tied in a bundle (optional)
3 bay leaves (optional)
1 teaspoon salt, plus more for carrots
2 pounds carrots, halved lengthwise
Olive oil
Chile flakes (optional)
Mojo de Ajo (recipe below)
10 sprigs cilantro, stems and leaves roughly chopped
½ cup pepitas, toasted


In large pot, cover beans with water by 2 inches (or just add beans to pot if using canned). Add onion, thyme and bay leaves, if using. Bring to boil, then turn down to simmer and cook until beans are tender, 20–90 minutes. When beans are tender, add salt and let sit for 10 minutes. Remove herbs and discard.

Heat oven to 400˚F. Toss carrots with glug of olive oil, couple pinches salt and pinch of chili flakes, if using. Roast carrots until deeply caramelized and tender, about 40 minutes.

Gently fold each individual portion of beans with ¼ cup of mojo de ajo. Add carrots, and garnish with chopped cilantro and handful of pepitas. Serves 6–8.

How to make Mojo de Ajo

Heat oven to 300˚F. Combine 1 cup olive oil, 20 garlic cloves and 2 sprigs oregano in small oven-proof pot. Bake for 45 minutes or until garlic is soft and fragrant. Alternatively, stew on the stove over very low heat, checking on it regularly.

Allow to cool. Remove oregano sprigs, squeezing any oil on leaves back into pot. Add zest and juice of 3 limes and 1 orange and salt, to taste. Stir to combine, lightly smashing garlic with back of spoon to make a thick, oily sauce.


Brotte 2019 Esprit Barville Red (Côtes du Rhône)

Berens likes to pair this dish with red wine from Côtes du Rhône, and it’s easy to see why: Its dark berry notes and spice complement foods that veer toward earthy or gamy, while acidity and fine-grained tannins go with the flow. This bottle, a Wine Enthusiast Best Buy, has a dress-it-up-or-down attitude that matches this dish.

This article originally appeared in the February/March 2022 issue of Wine Enthusiast magazine. Click here to subscribe today!