Rio Zape Beans with Feta
When I was growing up, we ate beans occasionally. Mostly from a can, and usually in the form of Soup, Chili or Baked Beans. It wasn’t until recently, however – that I really learned how yummy beans could be. I mean, when I would eat beans in chili, or soup – usually it was the flavor of the seasonings and spices, that carried the dish. Chili powder, tomato sauce, ham, etc… And the beans, ever willing to adapt to different situations, were the quiet partner in the back, soaking up flavors and adding protein. The “wind beneath the wings”, so to speak.
But beans can be more than the nearly-silent and supportive partner – and if you try out these heirloom beans from Rancho Gordo, I’m sure you’ll agree. I was first turned on to Ranch Gordo by this post about heirloom beans on the Kitchn. I told myself I’d make it a point to go out and get some as soon as possible. And I was floored by what I found. Unlike the background singers of my youth, opened from a can and added to other dishes – these beans are so delicious you won’t want to add anything to them, because they shine so brilliantly on their own. And it’s beyond simple to make – I don’t know if I’ll ever want to buy canned beans again. If you have a lazy Saturday afternoon hanging around the house and relaxing, you can have these beans for dinner.
Of course, like any dried bean – it does tend to work better if you soak the beans overnight. However, if you’re like me and you sometimes forget, just soak them for a couple of hours in the morning before cooking, and you should get most of the benefit. The picture above is the Rio Zape beans from Rancho Gordo after soaking and draining, but before cooking. They’ve plumped up a lot, and have this unique striping/swirling pattern that give them a distinctive look. After cooking, the color pattern becomes more subtle, but it’s more than made up for in flavor. I’ve never had anything quite like them, although the closest bean to the Rio Zape would probably be the pinto bean – so in a pinch you can substitute pintos, but you’ll really be missing out, because these are much better than the pintos I’ve had in the past.
Okay, so I know I’m starting to sound like a star struck fan-girl, but you really do have to go out and give these beans a try. Or, if not these beans, then give making other beans from scratch – because the recipe I’m going to provide is pretty much the same for nearly any variety. I love to make up a batch of beans about once a week, stick them in the fridge, and use them for quick meals during the week. It does take a little bit of a time commitment in terms of someone actually being home, but they are really low on the work & complexity scale. Put in a pot, cover with liquid, simmer until done. It’s literally that simple. You can putter around in the garage, mow the lawn, watch a video, knit a sweater, or whatever else you would normally do during an afternoon at home – just popping in to the kitchen every so often to give the pot a swirl with a spoon and add water if neccessary. Then, when your significant other says “What’s for dinner?” You can dust a little flour on your nose, give them an aggrieved look, and tell them you’ve been laboring for hours making from-scratch beans just for them. Let the kudos come rolling in.
These beans would be suitable in any application where you might normally use Pintos – Chili, Soup, Refried Beans, etc… Although so far, my favorite way by far has been lightly dressed with a little bit of Feta Cheese, a drizzle of some fine quality olive oil, a sprinkle of Kosher Salt, and a thick slab of Mr. Man’s homemade French Bread. We had that for dinner the other night, with a side of sauteed mushrooms and kale from our recent FFTY box, and it was just a perfect and easy weeknight meal.
It was definitely a nice change of pace from our being-lazy-dinners we’ve had so many of lately. LOL – it feels good to be getting back in to the swing of things. We finally beat the video game we’d gotten sucked in to, and now I’m determined to try and get back in the kitchen (and on the website). I have a few things that I’m working on, and eventually I want to post about them, but for now I don’t want to jinx it by talking about it just yet.
- 1 lb dried Rio Zape Beans (or other Pinto-Style bean)
- 1 quart Stock (I used Scrap Stock, but you can use whatever – even water, since the beans will create their own pot liquor, too)
- 1 sprig of Rosemary
- 1 Sprig of Thyme
- Kosher Salt
- Fine Quality Olive Oil
- Crusty Bread
- Rinse and pick over beans, discard any debris
- If possible, soak beans overnight (or atleast for a couple of hours)
- Drain and rinse beans until water runs clear
- Pour the beans in to a heavy pot with a tight fitting lid
- Add the stock, rosemary, thyme and enough water to cover the beans by atleast an inch
- Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to a simmer
- Simmer, stirring every once in a while until beans begin to soften – (add more water if neccessary to keep an inch of liquid over the beans)
- Add a couple generous pinches of kosher salt and continue cooking until tender
- Cooking time will vary depending on type/age of bean and desired level of tenderness – cook to taste
- Before Serving, fish out the stems of the rosemary and thyme and discard
- Serving Suggestion: Sprinkle with crumbled feta cheese, drizzle with olive oil, and give it a light sprinkle of kosher salt (if desired) – and use the cooking liquid to dip your bread in!
Update – Used leftover beans to make refried beans – and they were the most awesomest refried beans I’ve ever ever had. Ever.