May seems to be turning into “Bean Month” (see 5/15 post: Spicy, Savory Black Beans Over Grilled Polenta), but I just can’t help it! My new shipment of dried beans arrived yesterday from Rancho Gordo in Napa, California. I have been ordering dried beans and spices from them for some time now. The owner gathers heirloom beans that are rarely seen nowadays and has them grown, when practicable, by northern California farmers. In addition, he has teamed with Mexican company Xoxoc to sell heirloom beans and indigenous products from independent Mexican farmers. He also offers dried corn, Mexican oregano, vanilla, chiles and chile powders, and many more side items in his online store. Besides selling excellent products, his site is full of great recipes, stories of his trips to Mexico, and histories of his heirloom beans (mostly from the Americas). I order regularly and we have “bean night” almost every week! Our two favorite types are “Good Mother Stallard” and “Borlotti” (pictured above). I use the very basic, slow-cook, stovetop bean recipe that I got from the website (with a few modifications) and add a variety of condiments to be served alongside the wonderful bowls of cooked beans. Healthy, wholesome, tasty and vegetarian! Bean heaven!
* 1 lb. dried beans, your choice
* 1 medium white or yellow onion, finely chopped
* 1-2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
* 1-2 teaspoons cayenne pepper (optional)
* 1-2 teaspoons red pepper flakes (optional)
* olive oil, for sauteing onions and garlic
As much as I love the wonderful flavor of slow-cooked beans, the condiments I serve alongside them are just as important! Here are the ones I usually use:
* chopped red onion
* chopped cilantro
* shredded cheddar cheese
* salsa (from the jar)
* sour cream
* 2-3 limes, quartered
On “Bean Day” morning, rinse 1 lb. of dried beans (in a large bowl) in water, checking for “debris” in the mix. After rinsing a few times, add final soaking water to about 1 inch above level of beans in bowl. “Floaters” (usually badly shriveled beans) can be tossed. Allow beans to soak at least 4-6 hours.
I always cook these beans when I’m going to be home all day. I enjoy stirring the pot, adding water when necessary, and checking for “doneness” in between household projects and/or television-watching. Dried beans can be cooked in a crockpot but that’s not nearly as much fun!
1. Saute onion in bean pot* until cooked.
2. When onions are translucent, add garlic and gently cook (careful not to scorch garlic).
3. Add beans (including soaking water) to pot, add all spices, turn heat to high, and stir. Add more water to cover beans, if necessary.
4. Continue to cook beans on high, checking and stirring often. When beans come to a low boil, turn down heat.
5. Beans can remain simmering, on low heat, for 4-6 hours. Check beans often, add water when needed, and keep stirring! When the beans have cooked for several hours, the water begins to look more like a gravy. I juggle the water and heat levels, in the last hour before serving, to make sure the “gravy” is thick and not watery. And, by all means, sample some to see if they are done and whether they need a little salt!
* Any large, stovetop-safe pan can be used.
To serve, place cooked beans into large serving bowl and let everyone choose which condiments they want on their individual servings. I add some red onion, cilantro and salsa to the bowl of beans, then squeeze lime quarters on top. Next come the shredded cheese and a dollop of sour cream. Oh boy, oh boy!