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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Ever since I first saw Mortgage Lifter Beans during my tour of the remodeled Boulder Whole Foods, I knew that they were in my future. Seriously – that is a hilarious name. It’s purported to come from a farmer facing foreclosure, who had a spectacular crop of beans, and thus had his mortgage lifted. I probably would have bought them regardless, just because of the name, but the cooking coach at Whole Foods said that they were a very meaty tasting bean, so I thought they would make a great soup.  As you can see, they’re also quite substantially proportioned:

Mortgage Lifter Beans - Size

Mortgage Lifter Beans

I love making vegetable and bean soups, and do so pretty often during the winter. I guess one of the nice things about soup is that in the middle of winter when the vegetables aren’t at their peak, you can still make a flavorful soup by cooking them for a long time in a flavorful broth. But since I was making this soup with fresh farmers’ market vegetables, I was interested to see if the taste would be significantly different.

I had picked up some purple carrots at the farmers’ market, and was excited to see if they were orange inside like the red ones I’d been buying, or were actually purple. (Excited? Maybe just moderately curious? I hate to give the impression I spent the days after my purchase unable to sleep in giddy anticipation of slicing up my carrots. Yeah, okay, I was excited). It turned out that they were reddish-purple with yellow and white stripes running the length of the carrots – pretty cool looking.

Purple Carrots with Yellow and White Stripes

Purple Carrots with Yellow and White Stripes

The really awesome (and unanticipated) part of using these carrots was that while the soup was cooking, the deep reddish-purple color leached into the broth, giving it a gorgeous burgundy hue. I actually made this soup on the weekend to have during the week, and after soaking in the refrigerator for a few days, the beans themselves had turned a nice burgundy color as well. And they were huge! This soup had really basic ingredients, but was very flavorful, and fairly filling due to the hearty beans.

Mortgage Lifter Bean Soup Ingredients

Mortgage Lifter Bean Soup Ingredients

Mortgage Lifter Bean Soup
serves 2-3

1 cup mortgage lifter beans
2 cups chicken broth
1 head of garlic, minced
1 small onion, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
4 carrots, chopped
2 cups tomatoes, chopped
2 tsp olive oil
1+1/2 tsp dill weed
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp hot smoked Spanish paprika
1/2 tsp freshly cracked pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp white wine

Soak the beans overnight (be sure to cover them with about 2 inches of water, so they don’t soak up all the water mid-way). Once soaked, drain, and then combine in a large pot with the chicken broth, bring to a boil, and then reduce heat and simmer until the beans are fairly tender, about 1+1/2 hours. (Check them occasionally and add more water if needed). Drain and set aside.

In the same pot, coat the bottom with the olive oil, add the onion, garlic, celery and carrots, set the heat to medium, cover, and sweat for 5 minutes, stirring a few times. Add the tomatoes, cover and cook another 5 minutes, stirring a few times. Add all of the remaining ingredients, stir well, cover, and then simmer, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Mortgage Lifter Bean Soup

Mortgage Lifter Bean Soup at the end of cooking

Mortgage Lifter Bean and Vegetable Soup

Mortgage Lifter Bean Soup

Black Calypso Bean Chili

September 29, 2011

Chili is one of my favorite things to make. I love the way it smells while it’s simmering on the stove, and it’s the perfect cozy food for cool fall evenings. My mom’s wonderful version is probably responsible for my enduring love of cumin. (I really love cumin.) I rarely make the same version of chili twice, because I like to vary the beans I use, sometimes add barley or bulgur, and occasionally throw in chicken or turkey sausage for extra protein. The use of beans in chili is apparently quite a touchy issue with different chili factions, but I always make mine with beans (I really like beans, too).

I had planned to use some leftover heirloom Colorado River Beans for this chili. But then when I was walking through the bulk section at Whole Foods, I came across some heirloom beans that I’m pretty sure weren’t there the last time I checked. They looked like little tiny Shamus (not very good swimmers though, it turns out). How could I possibly pass these up? I promptly filled a bag.

Orca or Black Calypso or Yin Yang Beans

Black Calypso Beans - Don't they look like Shamu?

The beans were labelled as Black Calypso, but later research turned up the fact that they are also referred to as Yin Yang, and some references do indeed call them Orca beans. Like a lot of colorful beans, they paled a bit after soaking, and more after cooking, but they did still have a two-tone color after they were done, albeit more of a pale purple contrasted with white at the end. Of course, using dried beans means that you have to soak them overnight, or at the least 4-8 hours, and they take a while to cook, but they have so much more substance than canned beans. Beans really should give some resistance when you bite into them, but I used canned beans for so long, I was pretty much trained to expect them to be slightly mushy. I also find that heirloom beans are more flavorful than your standard black or kidney beans, even if you use the dried versions of those. The contrast between dried heirloom beans and dried black or kidney beans is much less drastic to me than the one between heirloom and mass-grown tomatoes, but there is definitely a perceptible difference.

I had a Hot Portugal pepper from the Farmers’ Market, but hadn’t used that kind before, so did a little pre-testing by touching a bit to my tongue, decided it was mildy hot, and ended up using about 2 tsp of it, since I wasn’t going for super-hot. The resulting chili had a slight bit of heat, but not a lot. Other additions included both an orange bell pepper and a small sweet purple pepper (yes, I bought it just because it was purple), as well as a single chicken sausage left over from a previous dinner. I opted for canned tomatoes instead of fresh ones, since I figured with the spices I would be adding, the flavor of the tomatoes wasn’t as critical as in other dishes.

Heirloom Black Calypso (or Orca) Bean Chili Ingredients

Chili Ingredients

Black Calypso Bean Chili
serves 4-6

1 cup Black Calypso Beans, soaked overnight
2 cups vegetable broth
1-28 oz can chopped tomatoes
1 white onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
your desired amount of hot pepper, minced (I used 2 tsp Hot Portugal)
4-8 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 chicken sausages, cut into very small pieces
3 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp chipotle powder
1/2 tsp salt

In a large soup pot or dutch oven, combine the broth and beans, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook on low until the beans are tender, between 1 and 1+1/2 hours according to the directions (But check them earlier! They took much less time to cook for me.)  It’s fine if you end up setting them aside while preparing the rest of the items.

While the beans are cooking, heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Sauté the garlic for about a minute, and then add the onion and peppers, and sauté until slightly tender. Once the beans are cooked, drain them, and then return them to the soup pot. Add the tomatoes, onion, pepper, garlic, sausage, and spices. Simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Taste, and add additional spices as desired.

Heirloom Black Calypso (or Orca) Bean Chili

Black Calypso Bean Chili

As I was pondering what to make this week, I was thinking I should use the red rice that I bought a month ago at Whole Foods. I thought for a while, and then stumbled upon an amusing idea (self-amusing, anyhow) – instead of red beans and rice, why not beans and red rice? I planned to have 2 andouille chicken sausages left over after making the previous night’s Soft Spring Wheat Berries with Sausage, Leeks, Pepper and Mushrooms, but I needed some beans to use. So I browsed the bulk selection at the Boulder Whole Foods, and found some gorgeous ones – Zuni Yellow Beans and Colorado River Beans. Both of these beans are heirloom varieties, and the more I explore heirlooms of all types, the more amazed I am at the intense and varied flavors. We’ve made red beans and rice before with dried red beans soaked overnight and cooked, but they have never had anywhere near the wonderful flavor of these heirloom beans.

Zuni Yellow and Colorado River Beans

And they are just so gorgeous. Unfortunately after they cooked, they both pretty much became a light brown color, so no vivid yellow, despite the fact that I ended up using mostly yellow ones with that hope. But oh well, the flavor more than made up for any color disappointment.

I realized as I started making this dish that I was using heirloom varieties of 3 of the ingredients. The tomatoes I used to cook down into a sauce were honking big, slightly strange looking heirlooms. For tomatoes, it almost seems that the uglier they are, the better they taste. These ones were so sweet when I tried some raw, they almost tasted like candy. I can’t believe that I spent so much time eating the long-distance shipped, bland, sour tomatoes readily available in the mainstream grocery stores.  And I even ate them in the summer!

The other heirloom I used was the red rice.  Even this had a degree of robustness that its common counterparts, white and brown rice, lack. It was definitely bolder, and I would say almost meaty or smoky tasting. I cooked it in chicken broth, which I think brings the flavors of grains and rices out more than just water (But it doesn’t overwhelm them and make them taste like broth).

Beans and Red Rice Ingredients

This was definitely one of those tornado-has-hit-the-kitchen dishes. But hey – I own these pots and pans, so I’m going to use the #$%& out of them! (I just keep trying to justify the expansive pot and pan usage to myself in different ways as I’m doing the non-dishwasherable dishes afterward. I can’t always tell if I’m fooled, though.) Fortunately this made a pretty huge batch, so we’ll have 2 dinners, plus plenty of extras for lunch.

My Crowded Stovetop

Heirloom Beans and Red Rice
serves: an army (actually, it serves 5 to 6, but when there’s only 2 of you…)
preparation time: eons (in reality, 2 to 2+1/2 hrs)

1+1/2 cups red rice
3+3/4 cups chicken broth
2 cups uncooked heirloom beans, soaked (see below)
2 pre-cooked spicy chicken sausages, chopped into bite-size pieces
3 quite large heirloom tomatoes, chopped (~6 cups)
1 large yellow onion, chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
1 large bell pepper, chopped
1 Tbsp hot chile (such as a Hatch chile), minced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp olive oil (smoked, preferably)
3/4 tsp sugar
1+1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp liquid smoke
1 tsp hot smoked paprika
1 handful of chopped parsley
1 handful of chopped cilantro

I planned this so the rice and beans would be done before the other ingredients. It’s fine if they cool down, you’ll combine them at the end.

Cover the beans in a few inches of water, and soak 4-8 hours. Drain, and then add to a large saucepan with 6 cups of water, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, and cook until tender (about 75 minutes, but that may vary depending on the type of beans you use).  Add the sausage at some point – I added it during the last 30 minutes, and probably could have put them in the whole time.  Drain and set aside if the other stuff isn’t ready yet.

Combine the rice and broth in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, and cook until tender.  The packaging said about 30 minutes, but it actually ended up taking closer to 45 minutes for mine.

Heat a skillet over medium heat, and then add the chopped tomatoes. Add the salt, sugar, liquid smoke and paprika once the tomatoes liquefy. You want to cook them until they reduce and thicken into a sauce, which will take differing times depending on what type of tomatoes you use. And it will seem like they aren’t ever going to thicken, but they will eventually. It took 20-25 minutes for mine to cook down. You may want to turn the heat up to medium high if the tomatoes aren’t simmering on medium. I turned it up and down a few times during cooking. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Heat 2 tsp of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute for a minute. Then add the pepper, onion, and chile and saute two more minutes. Add the celery, and continue to saute until the onion is translucent and the pepper is tender. Stir in the parsley and cilantro. Add the tomato sauce, rice and sausage and combine well. (Technically for red beans and rice you’d serve everything over the rice, but that’s the nice thing about making your own recipes up – you aren’t obligated to meet anyone’s expectations).

Heirloom Beans and Red Rice

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