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The triumph of the heirloom

September 6, 2011

Dear Rancho Gordo,

I love your beans.  They are delicious.

Sincerely,

Kathy

Truly, these beans are worthy of praise.  I soaked, cooked, and made salad out of the San Franciscano beans last night.  As Rancho Gordo attests, these beans were made for salad–they hold together, have a firm, meaty texture, and even retain (faintly) their stripes.  The latter impressed me.  I’ve always hated when pinto turn one uniform shade, shedding their unique pebbly spots for homogenous pink.

Bean & corn salad

The beans--they're still striped!

The soaking was fine; you just need to know ahead of time you want to make dried beans.  Even soaking from around 8 or 9 to 4 is plenty of time.  Better, of course, is soaking overnight, but I don’t always plan so perfectly.  I can’t actually attest to length of cooking time, but it wasn’t three hours (their advice on beans–cook ‘em low and slow; takes 1 to 3 hours).  Probably a bit more than one?

How I’ve been winning at dried beans, though, is with my rice cooker.  No, not the fabulous rice cooker extraordinaire with fuzzy logic and all.  No, this one is a simple, one-lever, two options (cook or warm), cook enough rice for your whole commune sort.  And it’s perfect for dried beans (and steaming; it’s got a nice little steamer tray that fits in).  Which is why I’ve gotten away with have TWO of the same kitchen gadget.

I soak the beans in the bowl of the rice cooker (1 to 1.5 pounds at most; 1 works best), rinse them and the bowl before I want to cook them, add enough (but not too much–boil-over is possible) water, plug in the cooker, and flick the switch to cook.  The beans will then cook merrily until I remember to check on them and attempt to crunch and undercooked bean.  I leave it to cook some more and when they’re soft enough to eat or very near, I’ll add salt and let them cook 5-10 minutes longer.  So simple, even I don’t screw it up.

beans boiling in a rice cooker

Rancho Gordo recommends adding minced & sautéed onion, carrot, and celery when you start cooking.  I had onion and carrot, so I used those.  And I threw in the typical bay leaf.  What are dried beans without a bay leaf, after all?  When they were close to soft, I added soy sauce (left over from soaking zucchini chips–more about that later) and some salt.

fresh corn and chopped bell pepper

What did I make with these exquisite beans?  Rancho Gordo’s Bean and Corn Salad.  With a few small modifications, of course.

  • 2 Cups cooked San Franciscano beans
  • 2 Cups fresh corn kernels (2 – 3 ears)
  • 1 green bell pepper, 1/4 inch dice
  • 1/2 red onion, minced
  • juice & zest of 1/2 a lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon roasted/smoked paprika
  • 1/8 – 1/4 Cup chopped basil
Mix all ingredients together.  The original recipe recommends chilling it in the fridge for 2 hours, but I served mine with the beans still warm from cooking.  Perfectly divine.  Serve with apple cornbread and a dollop of sour cream.

Heirloom bean and local corn salad

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