My first heirloom beans. And, yes, my first photo! It’s a big day here in dreamland.
I haven’t posted photos before because I firmly believe that you’re better off with no photo than a bad photo, at least when it comes to food. But these beans are so beautiful it would be pretty hard to make them look bad. Plus the lighting this morning was perfect, if depressing: overcast winter sun that basically transformed my living room windows into a string of light boxes.
I don’t have a shot of the final product, because by the time the beans were finished the sun was gone. And I have no light box. Yet. But it doesn’t matter.
What matters is something no amount of perfect light or mad skill could capture: the taste. Indeed, I wish we had the Jetsons-style technology we were supposed to have by now, the year 2013. Then you could just punch a button and order them right through your screen. You wouldn’t have to take my word for it. You would know the rich, creamy, kinda smoky flavor these beans hold when cooked with nothing but water, a tiny bit of olive oil, and a few aromatics. You would know that these bean totally lived up to the hype. Thank goodness. Because I have a whole lotta Rancho Gordo beans.
You’re going to hear a lot more about Rancho Gordo beans in the weeks, probably months, to come. And I expect I’ll start buying heirloom beans from other sources. I’m hooked. They really are better than the supermarket beans I’m accustomed to. For now, though, here’s the story on this bean, the Rio Zape.
As described by Steve Sando in The Rancho Gordo Heirloom Bean Grower’s Guide, it “is very similar to a classic pinto bean, but it’s more dense and exudes a deep, rich pot liquor.” Sando also warns that the Rio Zapes don’t “work well in a lot of recipes because they’re so rich and distinct.” Instead, he says, they’re best as a pot bean.
Later, one day, I might try to prove him wrong. But for this first batch I took Mr. Sando at his word. I prepared the beans Rancho Gordo style. Here’s the original (https://www.ranchogordo.com/html/rg_cook_beans_primer.htm) and my breakdown of the directions/recipe.
1 lb. Rio Zape beans
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 stalk of celery, diced
1/2 small onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 thumb-sized piece of kombu
1. Pick over the beans, remove any debris, and rinse. Cover the beans with an inch or two of cold water. Soak for 3-4 hours.
2. After the beans have soaked, heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Saute the vegetables for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they’re soft and fragrant. Add the kombu and the beans, together with the soaking water, plus additional water as needed to cover by an inch or so. Or, if you don’t want to use the soaking water, drain and rinse the beans then add fresh cold water to cover by an inch.
3. Bring the beans to a boil for 5 minutes. Reduce the heat and simmer for 1-3 hours, adding salt when the beans start to become tender. Today I added 2 tsp. salt after 45 minutes. Next time I’ll probably try 1 tsp. to start, as these were a little salty. The beans cooked a total of 1-1/4 hours.
I really wanted to see what these tasted like, so my dinner tonight was a (large) bowl of beans. And it was great. I feel nourished, healthy, well cared for, and totally satisfied. Which is awesome. I love beans.