Perfect Pintos

I think the humble dried bean often gets overlooked in the US – cast off as too time consuming to cook or too boring, or peasant food. Me, when the weather turns cool, the first thing I do is replenish my stock of heirloom Rancho Gordo beans, and grab my dutch oven to make a comforting pot of beans.

And I’m going to tell you once again, that if you haven’t tried the beans from Rancho Gordo – get on over to their site and place an order…these beans are head and shoulders above anything you get in a grocery store. Freshness matters in dried beans, and when you buy from your grocery, you don’t know if they’ve been sitting in a warehouse or on a store shelf for 3 years. Fresh beans mean creamier beans – old beans can be chalky, even when fully cooked.

I’m happy to sit down to a simple bowl of beans for lunch, spiked with herbs or chipotles, maybe with some brown rice served alongside. These pintos are so creamy, and the broth is so flavorful, they are great all on their own. We used some of the leftovers and fried them up to fill some simple quesadillas.

Perfect Pintos
Serves 5

1/2 lb dried pinto beans, soaked overnight
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
3 bay leaves
1 cup homeade chicken stock (optional)
2 strips bacon
1/2 tsp kosher salt
chipotle puree to taste

  1. Soak the beans overnight in a large bowl covered in at least 3 inches of cold water.
  2. Heat a 3 quart pot over medium heat. When the pot is hot, add the bacon and cook until about halfway crisp, when some of the fat has rendered into the pot. Then, add in the diced onion, celery, bell pepper and saute until the veggies begin to soften – about 5 minutes. Then, add in the beans, chicken stock and enough water to cover the beans by about 2 inches. Bring the beans to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, and gently simmer the beans for an hour or so, until done. Add in a spoonful or two of chipotle puree to season, then add in 1/2 tsp of salt. Stir, then turn the heat off and allow the beans to rest and soak up the salt in the broth for 30 minutes or so before serving.
  3. If there is more broth in the pot when the beans are done than you prefer, ladle the broth off, and save it for another use – the broth is so flavorful, it shouldn’t be wasted!

164 cal/serving, 50 cal from fat, 5.7g fat, 5mg cholesterol, 520mg sodium, 150mg potassium, 33g carbs, 18g dietary fiber, 4g sugars

Lamb Stew with White Beans

So, here’s another lovely cold-weather stew. You could say this this is a re-run of my beef stew from March, and be completely in the right. But, this one has lamb – which makes it different, right?!

Okay, maybe it’s not totally different, but like most people, my kitchen hosts a lot of rerun dishes, and this one is definitely welcome on our table anytime we have all the ingredients on hand. The truth is, the weather is turning cold, and we’re in the waning days of our summer farm share, which leaves us with oodles of root vegetables in the crisper. Our meat farm share also supplies us with wonderful stew meats this time of year, so lamb stew is a natural. I promise you, that if you make this one, you won’t be disappointed…and it’s even better the next day for leftovers!

Lamb Stew with Cannellini Beans
Serves 6

1lb lamb stew meat, cubed, trimmed of fat
4 strips bacon, sliced
1 Tb olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 leeks, trimmed and sliced
1 T fresh rosemary, minced
6 oz red wine
1 bell pepper, diced
1/2 lb dry runner cannellini beans, cooked and drained
2 large carrots, peeled and cubed
3 bay leaves
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups tomato sauce (homeade, or jarred pasta sauce)
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 cup water
salt & pepper to taste
parsley or cilantro for garnish

1/2 lb dry runner cannellini beans
1/2 onion
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 carrot, sliced in half
2 bay leaves

Cooking the Beans:
Soak the beans overnight in a large bowl, covered with 3 inches of water. To cook, pour beans and soaking water into a pot, add half an onion, 3 cloves garlic, carrot and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer until beans are mostly done, but still slightly al dente – about a hour and fifteen minutes to 2 hours, depending on how fresh your beans are. Set cooked beans aside.


  1. Heat a large dutch oven on the stove over medium heat for a few minutes. Add sliced bacon, and saute until semi crisp. Remove bacon from pot and set aside. Leave 1 tablespoon of fat in the pot, pour out any excess (or save the bacon grease in a storage container in the fridge, as I do).
  2. Season the cubed lamb with salt and pepper. Add half of the lamb in one layer to the pot with bacon fat and sear for 2 minutes on each side. Remove lamb and set aside, then add remaining beef to the pot and sear.
  3. Remove remaining lamb from the pot and set aside. Add 1 T olive oil to the pot, then add the leeks, carrot, celery and saute, scraping any brown bits from the bottom of the pot. After 2 minutes, add the garlic, rosemary and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the red wine, stir and cook for another minute or two.
  4. Next, add the chicken stock, bell pepper, beans, tomato sauce, red pepper flakes and lamb. Cover the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for at least an hour, stirring occasionally. After an hour, remove the lid, turn the heat up a touch, and reduce the liquid in the stew until it becomes a delicious red gravy, about 20 minutes. Taste, and season with salt and pepper. Chop up a handful of parsley or cilantro, and stir in at the last moment, then dish it up.

368cal: 90cal from fat, 9.9g fat, 80mg cholesterol, 1110mg sodium, 440mg potassium, 33g carbs, 8g fiber, 32g protein

Borlotti Beans with Andouille and Collard Greens

The photos of food seem to be piling up fast on my computer, without me having time to tell you about all of them…it’s a sad state of affairs, as we’ve had some very tasty meals lately. The early fall harvest season provides some of the best eating all year – we’ve still got plenty of summer berries and peaches at the market, plus the heartier fall veggies are starting to come in.

This week, our farm share contained a HUGE bunch of collard greens. I enjoy greens, but Mark is still a little more hesitant to declare his love for the heartier greens of fall, so I knew that I wanted to sneak them into a dish that he would otherwise be delighted to eat (ie: anything with bacon). Actually, Mark’s main complaint about collards and kale are that when cooked on their own, they cool rapidly on the plate, and he doesn’t like them when cool, which is a reasonable enough request. My beloved husband *never* complains about anything I cook, and happily eats pretty much anything, so I think I can work with him on his preference for warm greens.

This recipe takes a little planning ahead, since you’ve got to soak the beans the night before you plan to cook, but once everything is in the pot, it’s a pretty low-fuss dinner, and makes quite a lot, and is great leftover for lunch.

Borlotti Beans and Greens
Serves 7 as a main course, served over rice (about 1 cup of beans)

269 calories, 4.9g fat, 1.6 g sat fat, 15mg cholesteron, 540 mg sodium, 530mg potassium, 41g carbs, 15g fiber, 19g protein, 15% calcium, 17% iron
Rice: 200cal/cup, 44g carbs

1/2 lb Rancho Gordo Borlotti beans, soaked overnight
2 cups chicken stock
3 cups water
2 links Wellshire Farms Turkey Andouille sausage
2 slices bacon, chopped
1 T reserved bacon fat
1 onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
3 bay leaves
red pepper flakes to taste
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 cup fresh oregano, minced (or 1 T dried)
1 bunch collard greens, washed, ribs removed, and cut into bite size pieces
salt & pepper to taste

Serve over rice

  1. Soak the beans overnight in a large bowl, covered by at least 4 inches of water.
  2. Cooking the beans: heat a heavy pot on the stove over medium heat. Slice the andouille into 1/3″ slices. Add the andouille to the pot and saute briefly, to brown. Remove the andouille and set aside. Add the chopped bacon to the now empty pot, and cook until moderately crisp. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon set aside to drain on some paper towel. Pour off all but 1 T of bacon fat and return the pot to the heat.
  3. Add the onion and bell pepper and saute for 5 minutes or so, until the onions begin to soften. Add the oregano, paprika and garlic to the pot, and stir for another minute, until fragrant. Add the drained, soaked beans, chicken stock, water, red pepper flakes, bay leaves, bacon and andouille sausage. Stir, bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to low, and simmer the beans uncovered for 1 1/2 – 2 hours, stirring occasionally, until the beans are meltingly tender, and the pot liquor thickens slightly. You want there to be some liquid left in the pot, but not watery. Season to taste with salt & pepper (a scant 1/2 tsp should do it.)
  4. Right before you’re ready to serve, fold in the chopped collard greens, stir, and simmer for another 15 minutes with the lid on to steam the greens. Serve over rice.

This dish is even better the next day, so if you plan ahead enough, skip adding the greens if you’ll be storing overnight in the fridge, and then just reheat and add the greens the next day, when you’re ready to serve.

Good Mother Stollard Beans

You know what’s crazy?! You, and about 200 other people have been reading my blog each month, and some of you I do not even know personally. It’s wild! When someone stops to tell me that they’ve cooked one of my recipes – it’s thrilling. That someone would like my recipes enough to try them out for themselves – that is the highest praise. Thank you for being here, for reading my words, and continuing to encourage me to keep on posting. If I could hug each and every one of you, I would reach through the computer and do so. And now, back to the regularly scheduled blog post…

A good potful of beans is an endlessly variable thing – the kind of hearty food that is more flavorful the next day, and can be adapted in just about any direction to add to whatever meal you’re planning. You all know by now how much I love Rancho Gordo beans, and so this recipe uses their Good Mother Stollard beans. Look at those gorgeous beans, with their burgundy zebra stripes – how can you not love them?!

I can assure you that they are every bit as tasty as they are beautiful. This is a bean that I never get tired of, and that when cooked up simply with just a few aromatics, can stand alone as a bean soup, because the pot liquor is so flavorful and thickens just a bit as the beans cook. And the finished beans are plump and soft, and take on the flavor of the onion, garlic and spices beautifully. I’d planned to eat these beans alongside some BBQ pulled pork, but they were equally good mashed into a quick refried bean and folded inside the teff quesadillas. I had thought there would be leftovers after the pulled pork dinner…but they disappeared from the pot, which is a very good sign!

A Potful of Beans
Serves 6-8 as a side dish

1/2 lb Good Mother Stollard Beans (Rancho Gordo)
1/2 white onion, diced
1 thick strip of bacon, chopped (optional)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
1/2 T Mexican oregano, crumbled
1 tsp chipotle puree
1 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt

  1. Soak the beans overnight in a large glass bowl, covered in at least 3 inches of water.
  2. When you’re ready to cook the beans, heat a 3qt dutch oven over medium heat. Add the bacon to the pot, and saute until some of the fat has rendered, but the bacon is not yet crisp, about 3-4 minutes. Add the onion to the bacon, and saute for 5-6 minutes, until the onions begin to soften, then add the garlic and stir for 1 more minute. Pour in the beans and their soaking water. Add the bay leaves, mexican oregano, cumin and smoked paprika and stir.
  3. Cover, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat so that the beans are gently simmering. Simmer until the beans are nearly done, about 1 1/2-2 hours, depending on how fresh the beans are.
  4. Once they’re nearly done, swirl in a spoonful of chipotle puree if you’d like a little extra heat, and then add the 1/2 tsp salt. Turn the heat off, and let the beans cool for 30 minutes, uncovered. While they rest, they’ll soak up the salt. Serve the beans as is, with some of the pot liqour, or spoon some out and mash them to make re-fried beans.

Black Bean Chili

Chili is one of those recipes where everyone has their own variation on the tomato-beans theme, and yet you rarely have a bad bowl of chili. However you make it, it just *works.* I don’t know that there’s anything especially unique about my chili, but I do think it rises just above the average bowl of the red stuff when I take the time to cook my own beans, instead of using canned beans. And that’s exactly what I did this morning.

I also like to make the chili a day ahead of when I actually plan to eat it, I think the flavors all settle in and get cozy, given some time together. Or maybe it just tastes better the next day when I come home from work and don’t have to cook anything, just reheat, chop some cilantro and serve.

You could easily skip the beef in the chili and go vegetarian – I actually prefer vegetarian chili, but the traditional red meat chili is one of Mark’s favorite meals, so I typically go for the beef, since he generally eats anything I cook without complaint.

1/2 lbs black beans, soaked overnight
1 carrot, cut in half
1 stalk celery
2 cloves garlic, peeled
2 bay leaves

Cooking the beans:
Pour the soaked beans and their liquid into a pot, and add enough water so that the beans are covered by water by at least 2 inches. Add the carrot, celery, garlic and bayleaves. Cover the pot, heat on high, bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes. Reduce heat to low, and gently simmer the beans, partially covered, until tender. Drain and reserve for the chili.

Black Bean Chili
8 servings
6 Weight Watchers points per serving

1 lb lean ground beef, cooked, and drained
1/2 lb dried black beans, cooked as directed above, and drained
1 T vegetable oil
1 large onion, diced
2 Italian fryer peppers, cleaned and diced (substitute 1 green bell pepper)
3 cloves garlic
4 Tb chile con carne seasoning
3 T tomato paste
1 T dried oregano
1 28oz can tomato sauce
1 14oz can diced fire-roasted tomatoes
1 Tb chipotle pepper puree
1 cup water
salt to taste

  1. Cook ground beef in large pot over medium heat, reserve cooked beef and drain off fat and juices. Set aside. Wipe out pot and return to heat.
  2. Heat pot over medium heat, add 1 T oil, then add onion and peppers. Saute for 5-7 minutes, until onions are softened and translucent. Add garlic, oregano, chile con carne seasoning, tomato paste and stir for a minute or two, until fragrant.
  3. Add tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, water, chipotle puree and black beans. Stir, and simmer, partially covered, for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Adjust seasoning if needed. Add beef, stir, and turn burner off. Let chili cool on the stove for a bit, then stash it in the fridge until you’re ready to serve.

BBQ Baked Beans

We know it’s winter when the available fresh, local produce begins to dwindle, and we turn to heartier fare – long simmered dishes and stews that warm our bellies as well as the house as they cook.

I woke up this morning to the most beautiful winter morning – snow falling gently over the lake, covering everything in a beautiful white blanket, and making the city look a bit like a holiday snow globe. And we’re definitely getting in the holiday spirit in our house this weekend, as we had some of my girlfriends over for our annual holiday potluck brunch. And this evening, I finally cooked my own turkey…more on that later.

The mission this morning was a big pot of BBQ baked beans. These do require some planning ahead – the beans need soaking, then simmering on the stove, and finally 4-5 hours in a low oven. I promise you the waiting is worth it for this pot of beans. Smoky, a bit spicy, and meltingly tender beans. And, the long, slow baking warms up the house on a cold, snowy day!

Baked Beans
8-10 servings

5 Weight Watchers points per serving (2/3 cup per serving)

Bean sauce:
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup molasses
2 T tomato paste
1 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp ground pepper
2 T whole grain mustard
2 tsp ground mustard
1/2 tsp salt
2 T siracha hot sauce

1lb santa maria pink beans, soaked
1 onion, sliced thin
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 slices bacon, sliced

  1. Soak the beans overnight, covered in at least 3 inches of water. Pour the beans and soaking liquid into a large dutch oven or pot and cover with at least 1 inch of water. Cover and bring the beans to a boil, then reduce to low and simmer for 30-60 minutes, or until the beans are beginning to get tender.
  2. While the beans cook, combine the ingredients for the “bean sauce” in a large bowl.
  3. Preheat the oven to 250.
  4. Drain the beans in a colander over a large bowl, to reserve the bean cooking liquid. Add two cups of the reserved bean broth to the bean sauce mixture and whisk.
  5. Place beans, onion, garlic and bacon back in the dutch oven, and mix to evenly distribute the onion and bacon. Pour the wet mixture over the beans, and place in the oven, covered. Bake for 4-5 hours, stirring a couple of times, making sure that the beans do not dry out – add a bit of water if needed. When beans are done, the sauce should be thick, and cling to the beans.