Borlotti Beans over Polenta

TOMATO SAUCE:
3 TABLESPOONS UNSALTED BUTTER
1/2 MEDIUM YELLOW ONION, chopped
1 MEDIUM FENNEL BULB, trimmed and chopped
3 GARLIC CLOVES, finely chopped
4 TEASPOONS CHOPPED FRESH OREGANO
1/4 TEASPOON RED PEPPER FLAKES
SALT
1 SMALL CARROT, peeled and shredded
ONE 28-OUNCE CAN WHOLE SAN MARZANO TOMATOES or plum tomatoes
FRESHLY GROUND PEPPER
2 CUPS DRAINED, COOKED BORLOTTI BEANS
1/3 CUP CHOPPED FRESH FLAT-LEAF PARSLEY

POLENTA:
4 CUPS WATER
1 TEASPOON SALT
1 CUP POLENTA
2 TABLESPOONS UNSALTED BUTTER
1/2 CUP FRESHLY GRATED PARMESAN CHEESE, plus more for garnishing
FRESHLY GROUND PEPPER

Optional: cooked Italian sausage, to serve on top of the finished dish.

For a streamlined process,make the tomato sauce and the beans ahead and heat them together while you cook the polenta.

Make the sauce: In a small Dutch oven or other heavy pot over medium heat, melt the butter.

Add the onion, the fennel, the garlic, 2 teaspoons of the oregano, the red pepper flakes, and a pinch of salt. Sauté until the vegetables are soft and fragrant, about 10 minutes.

Add the carrot and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes.

Add the tomatoes with their juice, stirring to break them up with a wooden spoon. Add another pinch of salt.

Reduce the heat to low and cook, uncovered, at the barest simmer, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes are reduced and beginning to separate from the oil, at least 2 hours or up to 3 hours.

Add the remaining 2 teaspoons oregano and salt and pepper to taste. The sauce can be made up to this point 1 or 2 days ahead; let cool and refrigerate.

Make the polenta:
About 45 minutes before serving, bring the water to a boil in a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add the salt and, whisking continuously, slowly pour the polenta into the water in a thin stream. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring nearly constantly with a long-handled wooden spoon, until the mixture thickens, the grains soften, and the polenta begins to pull away from the sides of the pan, 40 to 45 minutes.

Stir in the butter and 1/2 cup of the Parmesan, and season with pepper. Cover to keep warm.

Add the beans to the tomato sauce and warm them together over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally. Stir in the parsley about 5 minutes before serving.

Spoon the polenta into warmed shallow bowls and make a well in the center of each serving. Spoon the tomato sauce into the well. Garnish with Parmesan cheese.

Substitution Note: This dish is best made with a rich, creamy bean. If borlotti are unavailable, try French horticulture, or wren’s egg.

Carne en su Jugo

6 SLICES HIGH-QUALITY BACON, diced
1 POUND LEAN BEEF such as sirloin tip or top round, cut against the grain into ¼-inch-thick slices and chopped (see note)
4 CUPS BEEF BROTH
2 CHIPOTLE CHILES IN ADOBO
SALT AND FRESHLY GROUND PEPPER
2 CUPS DRAINED, COOKED FLOR DE MAYO BEANS
CILANTRO LEAVES for serving
LIME WEDGES for serving
FINELY CHOPPED GREEN ONIONS, white and pale green parts, for serving

In a medium, heavy skillet over medium heat, sauté the bacon until all the fat is rendered and the bacon is brown but not crisp, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel–lined plate.

Add the beef to the skillet and sauté until brown, turning often with tongs, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the beef to a large Dutch oven or other heavy pot.

In a blender, combine 1 cup of the beef broth and the chiles in adobo and blend until smooth. Add to the beef and pour in the remaining beef broth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, reduce the heat to low, and simmer until the meat is tender and the flavors are blended, about 20 minutes.

In a small saucepan over low heat, warm the beans. Ladle them into warmed bowls. Ladle the meat with its broth over the beans.

Top with the bacon and cilantro leaves.

Pass the lime wedges and green onions at the table.

Note: It is easier to slice the meat thinly if you freeze it for about 20 minutes. Substitution Note: Any creamy pintolike bean is great here. Try Anasazi, flor de junio, or Rio Zape.

Succotash with Mint and Goat Cheese

2 TABLESPOONS UNSALTED BUTTER
3 GREEN ONIONS, white and pale green parts and some of the dark green tops, thinly sliced
1 1/2 CUPS FRESH CORN KERNELS (2 medium ears)
1/2 POUND FLORIDA BUTTER BEANS, cooked and drained
SALT AND FRESHLY GROUND PEPPER
1/2 CUP HALVED CHERRY TOMATOES
2 TABLESPOONS CHOPPED FRESH MINT
1/4 POUND FRESH GOAT CHEESE

In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter.

Add the green onions and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes.

Add the corn and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes.

Add the beans and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Remove from the heat, and toss in the tomatoes and mint.

Serve immediately, crumbling a little goat cheese over each portion.

Substitution Note: Try this recipe with Christmas lima beans or with fresh lima beans if you have them.

Lima Beans (Baby or Christmas) with Caramelized Onions and Bacon

1/2 POUND FLORIDA BUTTER BEANS or CHRISTMAS LIMAS, soaked
4 SLICES HIGH-QUALITY BACON, diced
2 1/2 MEDIUM YELLOW ONIONS
2 CELERY STALKS, diced
2 GARLIC CLOVES, finely chopped
SALT
3/4 TEASPOON CHOPPED FRESH THYME LEAVES FRESHLY GROUND PEPPER

Put the beans and their soaking water in a stockpot and add more cold water if needed to cover the beans by 1 inch. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, partially covered, until the beans are beginning to soften, about 1 hour.

In a medium, heavy skillet over medium heat, sauté the bacon until the fat is rendered and the bacon is beginning to brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat from the pan and reserve.

Chop half of an onion and add to the pan over medium heat. Add the celery and garlic and sauté until the vegetables are soft and fragrant, about 10 minutes.

Add to the beans, reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until the beans are tender, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. When the beans are nearly soft, season them with salt.

Meanwhile, cut the remaining 2 whole onions in half, then cut into thin slices. Wipe out the skillet with a paper towel, pour in 2 tablespoons of the reserved bacon fat, and set over medium-low heat. Add the sliced onions and a few pinches of salt. Cook, stirring, until the onions wilt. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are medium brown, soft, and caramelized, 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Add 2 tablespoons water and stir to loosen any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Add the thyme and season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the bacon to the caramelized onions and heat gently.

Top each serving of beans with some of the caramelized onion–bacon mixture.

Cannellini with Tomatoes and Sage

FOR OVEN-CURED TOMATOES:
6 PLUM TOMATOES
1 TABLESPOON CHOPPED FRESH FLAT-LEAF PARSLEY
3 TO 4 TABLESPOONS EXTRA-VIRGIN OLIVE OIL
SALT

BEANS:

1 POUND RUNNER CANNELLINI or CELLINI BEANS, soaked
1 MEDIUM CARROT, peeled and quartered
1 CELERY STALK, cut into thirds
1 GARLIC HEAD, halved
3 FRESH SAGE SPRIGS 3
FRESH ROSEMARY SPRIGS
SALT
1/4 CUP SAFFLOWER or GRAPESEED OIL for frying
20 FRESH SAGE LEAVES
1/2 CUP EXTRA-VIRGIN OLIVE OIL, plus oil for drizzling
2 GARLIC CLOVES, thinly sliced
3 TABLESPOONS CHOPPED FRESH SAGE
FRESHLY GROUND PEPPER

Make the tomatoes:
Preheat the oven to 200 ° F. Core the tomatoes. Slice each tomato nearly in half lengthwise, taking care not to cut all the way through so the halves remain attached.

In a medium bowl, combine the tomatoes, parsley, extra-virgin olive oil, and salt to taste. Toss to coat. Arrange the tomatoes, cut side down, in a single layer on a rack setover a baking sheet.

Bake until the liquid is evaporated and the tomatoes are shriveled and reduced in size, but not completely dry, about 10 hours. Chop the tomatoes and set aside.

Beans:
In a stockpot, combine the beans and their soaking water, carrot, celery, and garlic head.

Put the sage sprigs and rosemary sprigs on a piece of cheesecloth, gather the corners, and tie the bundle securely. Add to the pot.

Add more cold water if needed to cover the beans by at least 1 inch. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat and cook,partially covered, until the beans are nearly soft, about 1 hour. Season with salt and continue cooking the beans until tender, about 30 minutes.

Allow the beans to cool in their broth. Remove and discard the vegetables, garlic head, and cheesecloth bundle. Drain the beans, reserving the broth.

In a small, heavy skillet over medium-high heat, warm the safflower oil until it is shimmering. Add the sage leaves, 4 at a time, and fry until they are crisp but remain bright green, 10 to 15 seconds. Remove with tongs to a paper towel to drain.

In a large, heavy skillet over medium-low heat, warm the 1/2 cup olive oil. Add the sliced garlic and chopped sage, and sauté until aromatic.

Add the chopped tomatoes and cook just until they begin to break down, 3 to 5 minutes.

Add the cooked beans to the skillet along with 1 cup of the reserved broth. Continue cooking until the liquid has reduced and leaves a glossy shine on the beans.

Season to taste with salt and pepper and drizzle generously with olive oil.

Transfer the beans to a serving dish and top with the fried sage leaves.

Jacob’s Cattle Beans with Pancetta and Sage

1/2 POUND JACOB’S CATTLE BEANS, soaked (page 21)
3 TABLESPOONS EXTRA-VIRGIN OLIVE OIL, plus more for drizzling
1/2 MEDIUM YELLOW ONION, chopped
1 MEDIUM CARROT, peeled and chopped
2 CELERY STALKS, chopped
3 GARLIC CLOVES, finely chopped
1/4 POUND PANCETTA, diced
2 TABLESPOONS CHOPPED FRESH SAGE
SALT AND FRESHLY GROUND PEPPER
FRESHLY GRATED PARMESAN CHEESE for garnishing

Put the beans and their soaking water in a soup pot and add more cold water if needed to cover the beans by 1 inch.
Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and simmer, partially covered, until beans just begin to soften, about 30 minutes.

In a medium, heavy skillet over medium-low heat, warm the 3 tablespoons olive oil. Add the onion, carrot, celery, garlic, pancetta, 1 tablespoon of the sage, and a little salt and pepper, and sauté very slowly to draw out the flavor of the aromatics and pancetta, about 20 minutes. Do not allow the vegetables and pancetta to brown.

Add the vegetables and pancetta to the beans, season with salt, and simmer, partially covered, until the beans are tender, about 1 hour. Check the water level often and add more water if needed. This dish is best when the beans are a little soupy.

During the final 5 minutes of cooking, add the remaining 1 tablespoon sage and adjust the seasonings.

Serve the beans in warmed shallow bowls. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Substitution Note: Cranberry beans will also work nicely in this simple recipe, or try Good Mother Stallard beans.

Boston Baked Beans

1 POUND EUROPEAN SOLDIER, WHITE NAVY, or YELLOW EYE BEANS, soaked (page 21)
2 TEASPOONS DRY MUSTARD
1 TABLESPOON TOMATO PASTE
1 TEASPOON SALT
1/3CUP DARK MOLASSES
1/4 CUP LIGHTLY PACKED BROWN SUGAR
2 TABLESPOONS MAPLE SYRUP
1/2 POUND SALT PORK, rinsed, dried, and scored in several places with a sharp knife (optional)
1/2 LARGE YELLOW ONION, thinly sliced
SALT AND FRESHLY GROUND PEPPER

Put the beans and their soaking water in a stockpot and add more cold water if needed to cover the beans by 1 inch. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until the beans are beginning to soften, about 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 250 F.

Drain the beans, reserving the broth. If necessary add enough water to the broth to measure 2 cups.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the broth, mustard, tomato paste, salt, molasses, brown sugar, and maple syrup.

Put half of the beans in a large Dutch oven or other heavy pot with a lid. Top with the salt pork (if using) and half of the sliced onion. Add the remaining beans and top with the remaining onion.

Pour the broth mixture over the beans, cover, and bake until the beans are soft, the pork is meltingly tender, and the sauce is thick and clings to the beans, 5 to 7 hours. Stop and check occasionally to make sure there is enough liquid in the beans, and add water if necessary, but not too much. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Chilies in Escabeche (for beans and tacos)

10 JALAPEÑO CHILES
1/4 CUP SAFFLOWER or GRAPESEED OIL
2 MEDIUM CARROTS, peeled and cut on the diagonal into 1/4 inch-thick slices
1/4 CUP THINLY SLICED WHITE ONION
2 GARLIC CLOVES, smashed with the side of a knife
3/4 CUP WHITE VINEGAR
1 BAY LEAF
1 TEASPOON DRIED MEXICAN OREGANO
5 PEPPERCORNS
1 TEASPOON COARSE SALT
2 TEASPOONS SUGAR

Cut a slit down the length of each chile, leaving the stem intact.

In a medium, heavy skillet over high heat, warm the safflower oil. Add the chiles and stir-fry until the skins are evenly blistered all over and they turn from bright green to dull green, about 8 minutes.

Add the carrots, onion, and garlic and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the vinegar, bay leaf, oregano, peppercorns, salt, and sugar. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the salt and sugar. Remove from the heat.

Using a slotted spoon, remove the chiles and other vegetables from the skillet and pack into a sterilized 1-pint mason jar. They should be packed tightly all the way to the top. Pour in the vinegar to cover all the vegetables. Let cool and then refrigerate for up to 1 month.

Moros y Cristos

2 TABLESPOONS EXTRA-VIRGIN OLIVE OIL
½ MEDIUM YELLOW or WHITE ONION, chopped
2 GARLIC CLOVES, finely chopped
½ MEDIUM GREEN BELL PEPPER, seeded and chopped
1 JALAPEÑO CHILE, finely chopped
1 CUP LONG-GRAIN WHITE RICE
1 BAY LEAF 2 CUPS WATER
1 TEASPOON SALT
2 CUPS COOKED BLACK BEANS (see previous recipe), drained
FRESH CILANTRO LEAVES for garnishing

In a small Dutch oven with a lid over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onion, garlic, bell pepper, and chile. Sauté until the vegetables are soft, fragrant, and beginning to brown, about 10 minutes.

Add the rice and stir to coat thoroughly with the oil. Add the bay leaf, water, salt, and beans.

Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook at a very slow simmer until the rice is tender and most of the liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes. You may check the beans and rice toward the end of the cooking time to make sure the water level is not too low and add a bit more water if needed, but you should leave the beans and rice as undisturbed as possible.

Remove from the heat and let sit, covered, for 10 minutes before serving.

Garnish each serving with cilantro.

Basic Black Beans

1 POUND BLACK VALENTINE BEANS, soaked
2 TABLESPOONS SAFFLOWER or GRAPESEED OIL
1 SMALL WHITE ONION, chopped
2 GARLIC CLOVES, finely chopped
1/2 MEDIUM GREEN BELL PEPPER, seeded and chopped
1 JALAPEÑO CHILE, CHOPPED
2 TABLESPOONS CIDER VINEGAR
1/4 CUP FRESH CILANTRO LEAVES
1/4 TEASPOON SPANISH SMOKED PAPRIKA
SALT AND FRESHLY GROUND PEPPER

Put the beans and their soaking water in a stockpot and add more cold water if needed to cover the beans by at least 1 inch. Bring to a rapid boil and cook for 5 minutes.

Reduce the heat so that the beans are barely simmering and cook until the beans are nearly soft, about 1 hour.

Meanwhile, in a medium, heavy skillet over medium-high heat, warm the safflower oil. Add the onion, garlic, bell pepper, and chile and sauté until the vegetables are very aromatic and beginning to brown, 8 to 10 minutes.

Add the vinegar, cilantro, paprika, and salt and pepper to taste and continue to cook, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes.

(Skip this step if making Moros y Cristos.) Scoop 1 cup of the beans from the pot and add to the skillet. Using a potato masher, mash the beans with the sofrito.

Add sofrito to the pot of simmering beans and season to taste with salt and pepper. Simmer until the beans are tender and flavorful, 30 to 40 minutes.

Basic Borracho Beans

Ingredients

4 cups cooked pinto, Rio Sape, red Appaloosa, or Anasazi beans, in their broth
1 bottle lager beer
2 slices high-quality bacon, diced
1/2 medium yellow or white onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 to 4 Serrano chiles, seeded if desired and chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Corn tortillas, warmed, for serving
Lime wedges for serving

In a stockpot over medium heat, warm the beans and their broth. Add the beer and simmer to cook off some of the beer, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small heavy skillet over medium heat, sauté the bacon until the fat is nearly rendered and the bacon is brown, about 10 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.

Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the fat in the pot. Add the onion, garlic, and chiles, and sauté over medium heat until soft and fragrant, about 10 minutes. Stir in the cooked bacon.

Add the mixture to the beans, season with salt and pepper, and cook until the flavors are blended, about 10 minutes.

Serve the beans with warm tortillas and lime wedges.

Adapted from Rancho Gordo (omits mushrooms)

Basic Pot Beans

1 TABLESPOON LARD or EXTRA-VIRGIN OLIVE OIL
1/2 MEDIUM WHITE or RED ONION, chopped
2 GARLIC CLOVES, smashed
1 POUND BEANS OF YOUR CHOICE, soaked (page 21)
SALT
4 KEY LIMES, cut in half, for serving
FINELY CHOPPED WHITE or RED ONION, for serving
1/4 CUP CHOPPED FRESH CILANTRO for serving

In a stock pot, over medium heat, warm the lard.

Add the onion and garlic and sauté until soft and fragrant, about 10 minutes.

Add the beans and their soaking water. Add more cold water if needed to cover the beans by at least 1 inch.

Raise the heat to high, bring to a rapid boil, and cook for 5 minutes.

Reduce the heat so that the beans are barely simmering and cook, partially covered, until the beans are soft, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Season the beans judiciously with salt, keeping in mind that it takes time for the beans to absorb the salt.

Ladle the beans into warmed bowls.

Diners top their servings with a squeeze of key lime, a spoonful of chopped onions, and a sprinkling of cilantro.

Basic Dried Beans

There is not one single method of cooking beans. At its most basic, you want to simmer the pot until the beans are soft. Soaking can speed up the process and vegetables or stock will make them more flavorful. It’s really that simple. There’s all kinds of fine tuning and variables, but basically, this is it.

Normally on a bean cooking day (which frankly is everyday at Rancho Gordo), I put the beans to soak in the morning, after rinsing in lots of cool water and checking for small debris. I cover the beans by about an inch or so. If you haven’t soaked, don’t fret. Go ahead and cook them, knowing it will take a bit longer.

Heirloom and heritage varieties don’t need a lot of fussing if they are used fresh, which I’d define as within two years. You can use a ham bone, chicken stock or as I prefer, simply a few savory vegetables. A classic mirepoix is a mix of onion, celery and carrot diced fine and sautéed in some kind of fat, often olive oil. A crushed clove of garlic doesn’t hurt. If I’m cooking Mexican or Southwestern, I will sauté just onion and garlic in mild bacon drippings or even freshly rendered lard.

Add the beans and their soaking water to a large pot. You have been told before to change the water and rinse the beans. The thinking now is that vitamins and flavor can leech out of the beans into the soaking water you are throwing down the sink. There is conflicting scientific evidence that changing the water cuts down on the gas. If you want to, do it. If it seems unnecessary, don’t.

If you’ve soaked them, the beans will have expanded, so make sure they are still covered by at least an inch, maybe a bit more. Add the sautéed vegetables and give a good stir. Raise your heat to medium high and bring to a hard boil. Keep the beans at a boil for about ten to fifteen minutes. After so many years, I think this is the moment that really matters. You have to give them a good hard boil to let them know you’re the boss and then reduce them to a gentle simmer, before covering. I like to see how low I can go and still get the occasional simmering bubble. Open and close the lid, or keep it ajar to help control the heat and allow evaporation. The bean broth will be superior if it’s had a chance to breathe and evaporate a little.

When the beans are almost ready, the aroma will be heady. They won’t smell so much like the vegetables you’ve cooked but the beans themselves. At this point, I’d go ahead and salt them. Go easy as it takes awhile for the beans to absorb the salt. If you want to add tomatoes or acids like lime or vinegar, wait until the beans are cooked through.

If the bean water starts to get low, always add hot water from a tea kettle. Many believe that cold water added to cooking beans will harden them. At the very least, it will make the cooking take that much longer to bring them back to a simmer. We don’t recommend using hot tap water, straight from a water heater. Better to heat the tap water in a tea kettle or pan first.

So you’re done! Once you’ve mastered this method, go ahead and try some different techniques. Your bean friends will swear by this or that method and you should take their advice, keeping in mind there are few absolutes when it comes to cooking beans, only that it’s very hard work to mess up a pot of beans.

Here’s a printer-friendly PDF of Cooking Basic Beans in The Rancho Gordo Manner

Cooking beans in a crockpot:

Sauté half of a chopped onion in about one tablespoon of fat (oil, lard, bacon fat, etc.). Place in a crockpot along with any other aromatics you’d like (such as Mexican oregano, garlic, bay leaf), followed by beans that have been picked over and rinsed. Cover with water (about one part beans to three or four parts water). Turn the heat to “high” and give the contents a stir. Do this in the morning, and your beans should be done by the afternoon. Cooking time will be 4-6 hours, depending on your crockpot and the variety of beans.

Cooking beans in a pressure cooker:

First consult the manufacturer’s instructions for the exact method for your model. Place cleaned beans in the pressure cooker and cover with three or four parts water. Generally, you want to cook under pressure for 20 minutes, release, and then cook open on the stovetop for another 20 minutes.

Some handy cooking and storing tips:

You can expect 1 cup of dried beans to yield about 3 cups cooked beans. One pound of dried beans (which is about 2 cups) will yield about 6 cups cooked beans.

Our beans are so fresh that soaking is not needed. It will, however, speed up the cooking time and can help the beans to cook more evenly, so if you have the time to do it, it won’t hurt. We don’t recommend soaking more than 6 hours or the beans may begin to sprout.

Many believe that adding salt (or acids like tomatoes and vinegar) too early in the cooking process prevents the beans from getting soft. We find this especially true with older beans.

You can store leftover cooked beans in the refrigerator for up to 5 days and you can freeze them as well. If you are storing beans in the refrigerator, keep them in their cooking liquid so they don’t dry out.

If a recipe calls for drained beans, be sure to save the extra liquid. You can use it for many things, including poaching eggs, adding moisture to dishes, and making soups.

Store dried beans in a cool, dark place. It’s fine to keep them in their Rancho Gordo packaging, although some prefer to transfer them to a glass jar with a lid or an airtight container. They should be good for about 2 years. After that, they are still edible but the quality will begin to decline.

Salsa Arriera

20 whole serrano peppers (or 10 Serrano del Sol)
2 tablespoons chopped white onion
1 clove garlic, chopped
4 tablespoons water, cold
Salt, to taste

Toast the chiles on a medium-hot comal or griddle, turning them from time to time until they are blistered and charred.

While they are still hot, grind them with the rest of the ingredients to a rough paste in a molcajete or in a blender.

Salsa de Tijera

1/2 ts Salt
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup Red wine vinegar
8 Chiles anchos
1/4 cup Queso fresco; crumbled
1 Onion
4 Garlic cloves; small

Toast chiles lightly, turning constantly so not to burn them. When cool, remove veins and seeds.

Cut chiles into small pieces and chop onion and garlic finely.

Mix chiles, onion, and garlic with oil, vinegar and salt. Let stand for approx 2 hrs.

To serve sprinkle with cheese.

(NOTE: This is sometimes called Salsa de tijera (scissors sauce) since the chiles are usually cut into thin strips with scissors. When chiles pasilla are used the sauce is called Salsa de moscas. Salsa de los reyes has three chiles ­ mulato, ancho, and pasilla. Good sauce for barbequed meats…)

Poblano Soup

4 whole poblano peppers, roasted and peeled
2 tablespoons butter
1 whole white onion, finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
16 ounces corn kernels, fresh or frozen
1 teaspoon Mexican Oregano
2 whole serrano peppers, finely chopped
2 whole waxy potatoes, cubed
6 cups chicken broth (preferably homemade)
Salt and pepper

Cut the poblanos into 1/3-inch strips and set aside.

Melt the butter in a Dutch oven or heavy pot and sauté the onion and garlic over medium-low heat until golden and soft.

Add the corn, oregano, serranos, poblanos, and potatoes and cook over medium heat for 3 minutes, making sure everything is coated with the butter and onion mixture.

Pour in the chicken broth and bring to a simmer. Cook until potatoes are soft, about 20 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

To serve, place in bowls and squeeze with fresh lime.

Options and Variations:

If you’re really in a rush, you can omit the potatoes. Cook until the corn is heated through.

If you feel like having a thicker soup, take a cup of the mixture and blend it and then add it back to the pot.

Caldo Tlepeno (Mexican Chickpeas, Chicken, and Chipotles)

Serves 4–6

1 cup dried Garbanzo Beans
1/2 white onion, minced
2 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, roughly chopped, with seeds and sauce
1 cup chopped tomatoes
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon good-quality lard or olive oil
6 cups chicken broth
1 cup peeled and sliced carrots
2 small zucchini, sliced
1 cup shredded cooked chicken
Avocado cubes for garnish
Lime wedges for serving

Cook the garbanzo beans. Drain, then set aside.

In a blender, combine the onion, chipotle chiles, tomatoes, and garlic and puree until smooth.

In a stockpot or large saucepan, heat the lard over medium heat. Add the pureed vegetables and fry, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes. Pour in the broth, bring just to a simmer, and simmer uncovered for about 15 minutes.

Add the garbanzos, carrots, and zucchini and continue to simmer until the carrots and zucchini are barely cooked, about 8 minutes.

Add the chicken and continue to simmer until the vegetables are just cooked and the chicken and garbanzos are heated through.

Ladle the soup into warmed individual bowls, garnish with avocado, and serve immediately. Pass the lime wedges at the table.

Caribbean Red Beans and Rice

Serves 4 to 6, doubles like a dream

2 cups cooked Rancho Gordo Domingo Rojo beans or pigeon peas
2-1/2-cups brown rice, cooked and cooled
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 green or red pepper, chopped
1/4 habañero (Scotch bonnet pepper) or 1 to 2 jalapeños, seeded and chopped, depending on how hot you like it*
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 tomato, chopped (or 1 cup canned diced tomatoes, drained)
1 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 small handful fresh thyme leaves, or ¼ teaspoon dried
1 small bunch cilantro, coarsely chopped
Sea salt and pepper to taste

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat.

Add the onion and garlic, and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes.

Add the pepper, habañero, and celery, and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, for another 5 minutes.

Stir in the diced tomato and season with the allspice and cumin.

Add the cooked Domingo Rojo beans and rice, stirring until the mixture is well combined. Reduce the heat to medium and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the moisture from the vegetables is absorbed, about 10 minutes.

Add the thyme, cilantro, sea salt, and pepper.

Red (or Black) Beans and Rice

1 pound dried beans, such as Red Nightfall or Sangre de Toro
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 small green pepper, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
3 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 fresh jalapeño, finely chopped
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
10 1/2-ounce can chicken broth
1 cup red wine
3 cups of water
1 bay leaf
1 pound smoked ham hocks
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups hot white rice

Chopped scallions for garnish

Wash beans well and sort through them, removing any pebbles or impurities. Place beans in a pot, cover with water and soak overnight.

When ready to cook, drain beans and set aside.

Sauté onion, green pepper, celery, garlic and jalapeño in oil in a large stock pot over medium-high heat, uncovered, until soft (about 10 minutes).

Add beans to the pot, along with chicken broth, red wine, water, bay leaf, ham hocks, cayenne pepper and black pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and taste to adjust seasoning.

Simmer, covered, for 2 hours, stirring frequently.
Remove ham hocks after 2 hours. Continue to simmer beans for another 30 minutes, or until the liquid in the beans has a thick, creamy consistency.

As soon as the ham hocks are cool enough to work with, remove all meat from the bones, and shred it. Return meat to the beans.

Divide the hot rice among 4 wide, shallow serving bowls. Pour 1 1/2 cups of the bean mixture over the rice in each bowl; you’ll have a little bean mixture left over.

Garnish with scallions and serve immediately.

You can also replace the red beans with a firm, creamy bean like Midnight Black Bean.

If you wish to add andouille, tasso or chicken to this recipe, to make it meatier still . . . go right ahead!

Red Beans and Rice

1 lb. Rancho Gordo Sangre de Toro Beans
2 tbs. cooking oil (we like grapeseed or vegetable)
1 large onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
1 large carrot, grated
2 ribs celery, diced
5 large garlic cloves, diced
3 tsp. smoked paprika
1 smoked ham hock or 3/4 lb. smoked ham, diced (optional)
2 dried bay leaves
3 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
A few dashes Worcestershire sauce
Balsamic vinegar, to taste (we used about two big dashes)
A few dashes of Hot sauce (optional)
Salt, to taste (if you can, get Smoked Sea Salt — adds a nice smoky flavor)

Cooked white rice for serving

Pickled onions, for garnish (optional)

Fresh chives and parsley, chopped for garnish

You can soak the beans overnight if you’d like OR, for day-of: cover the beans with water in a big pot and bring to a rolling boil. Boil the beans for about an hour, until the beans are tender but not falling apart. Sometimes it takes longer, depending on the age of the beans. Do NOT add salt yet (this slows the cooking process).

When the beans are nearly tender, pour your cooking oil into a pan and sauté the onions, celery, bell pepper, and carrot until fragrant (about 2-3 mins). Add the garlic and smoked paprika, then sauté for another few minutes, stirring occasionally.

Drain the beans, then add the sautéed vegetables to the beans. Add the ham hock (if using), thyme, bay leaves, Worcestershire, balsamic, hot sauce, and just enough water (or veggie stock) to cover.

Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to a low simmer.

Stirring occasionally, cook for at least 2 hours, or until it’s nice and creamy. The longer you cook it, the better it gets!

Do one final salt check — add a bit more if it needs it.
Pour mixture over cooked white rice and top with pickled onions (if using) and fresh chopped herbs. Serve with good local bread and a glass (or three) of Cabernet Sauvignon.

Citing Two Old Dogs.