Cold weather is always good for making real beans. By real, I mean not from a can – I mean dried beans soaked overnight and simmered in broth on the stovetop for a couple of hours. With lots of garlic and some onion, carrots and celery. In addition to the gorgeous smells you’ll have wafting through the kitchen when you make dried beans, the final product doesn’t even seem to belong to the same family of food as canned beans. These are beans that actually give a little resistance when you chew them, making them seem so much more robust and filling.

I had been eyeing some heirloom beans from Rancho Gordo for some time, so I finally ordered a few varieties to try. I had a hard time choosing, since they all sounded so good (and were soooo pretty). But select I did, and below is a picture of the types I went with.

Heirloom Beans from Rancho Gordo - Scarlet Runner Bean, Ojo de Cabra Bean (Goat's Eye), Vallarta Bean, Rio Zape Bean

Heirloom Beans from Rancho Gordo – Scarlet Runner Beans, Ojo de Cabra (Goat’s Eye) Beans, Vallarta Beans, Rio Zape Beans

I ended up using the Rio Zape beans for this particular recipe. The Rio Zape beans are an heirloom which is touted as being discovered in the ruins of the Anasazi cliff-dwelling people in the Southwestern area of the US, and are probably the most delicious beans I’ve ever had. But I got a nice close-up of the Ojo de Cabra beans I wanted to share as well:

Closeup of Ojo de Cabra (Eye of the Goat) Beans

Closeup of Ojo de Cabra (Eye of the Goat) Beans

So back to the Rio Zape beans. If you don’t have them or a similar heirloom bean, you can substitute pinto beans, but the Rio Zapes make such a nice tasty broth, you might have to throw in some additional spices to add some flavor. (Plus, you really, really want to try these beans.)

Rio Zape Beans, Carrot, Celery, Onion, and Garlic

Rio Zape Beans, Carrot, Celery, Onion, and Garlic

I did some research on the conventional wisdom that says you shouldn’t cook beans with salt because it will make them tougher, and it turns out that’s not actually true. So I went ahead and used broth, as well as some diced onion, carrot, celery, and lots of garlic.

(Slightly) Spicy, Garlicky Rio Zape Beans
serves 4

1 cup dried Rio Zape beans
1 small white onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
4-8 large garlic cloves, minced (the amount depends on your love of garlic)
1/2 oz grated pecorino romano (optional)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp chipotle powder
vegetable or chicken broth (variable, but several cups)
2-6 shakes liquid smoke
1/2 to 1 tsp salt (only if using low-salt broth!)
brown rice

Rinse beans, then cover with 2 inches of water in a large bowl, and soak 6 hours or overnight.

Drain and rinse beans, then put beans in a stock pot, add all ingredients up through the broth, then add broth to cover beans by 2 inches. (You’ll want to taste the broth and adjust it with the liquid smoke and salt to your liking, but you might want to wait until it’s heated to do so. You’ll also want to go a bit light on the salt, since as it reduces, it will become more salty). Bring to a boil, then cook for 5 minutes. Turn the heat down to low, and simmer for about 1+1/2 to 2 hours (until beans are tender to your liking), checking every 20 minutes or so, and adding broth as needed to keep the beans submerged (towards the end you just want them to be barely under the broth, so the results aren’t too soupy, but you do want a little juice left. Once the beans are tender enough, you can turn up the heat and cook off a some of the excess broth if you like. Serve over brown rice.

Spicy Slow-Cooked Beans

(Somewhat) Spicy Garlicky Rio Zape Beans

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