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by Willow on October 26th, 2010

I had the great pleasure of attending the Chefs Collaborative National Summit a few weeks ago, and one of my favorite presentations included Steve Sando (of the renowned Rancho Gordo), Mike Holleman from Indian Harvest, farmer Matt Linehan and chef Peter Davis of Henrietta’s Table.  The focus was on the growing, selling and cooking of heirloom bean varieties.  I LOVE beans (have you noticed??) and am prepping for a class I’ll be offering on why and how we should be eating more of them, so it was great timing.

I’m also happy to support the growing, marketing and consuming of any heirlooms: just like with veggies, seeking them out is a way to discover amazing flavors and textures that you had never imagined before.  The way it stands now, our modern food  system favors only those varieties that are quick & simple to grow, easy to ship and uniform looking – but there is light at the end of the tunnel!  It started with American’s discovery that an heirloom tomato tastes HUGELY different (better!) than your perfect-looking, cottony-tasting red globe from the grocery store – and now it’s beginning to expand to things like apples, squash, lettuce and even peppers!  I love that people are starting to be willing to branch out – and it can only get better from here as more farmers realize that people want more diversity and so are more willing to branch out themselves.  Rah! Rah! Go Team! (Use your imagination: me with pom-poms, jumping around my living room! :-))

Anyway, off my soapbox and back to the beans.  I walked away from the session psyched to cook even more with beans and with the supplies to do so:  Indian Harvest gave us each packages of an Heirloom Bean Blend and even COOLER, some Black Garbanzo Beans!

I cooked up the bean blend first, which was a combination of Peruanos, Cranberries, Butterscotch Calypsos, Chestnut Limas and Jacobs Cattles.  Since they all were beautiful and different, I probably should have done a simple bean salad or bruschetta topping or something so that they could all stand out, but….  I didn’t!  It’s been darn cold here in Boston and I wanted something thick and smooth and warming.  Hence this lovely stewlike creature pictured above!

I soaked the beans overnight and then rinsed and cooked them with about 5 cups water for about 40 minutes.  I then sauteed onions and garlic (lots!!) till they were soft & translucent and threw in a huge bunch of chopped Rainbow Chard leaves and stems on the high heat to sear them.  I then turned the heat down, adding in a cup of  reserved cooking liquid from the beans and brought it all to a simmer.  In went some cumin and chili powder, some salt and pepper.  And last, in went the beans.  I let this bubble away until it got nice and creamy.  Served it up with toasted tortillas to clean the bowls.  If I was to repeat this again, I would probably use a more neutral green, like kale or spinach.  The chard was pretty strong and overwhelmed the beans, which all had such neat tastes & textures themselves.  It made me a little sad to not get those tastes in the final dish.  🙁  Oh well, next time!

Oh, and those Black Garbanzos?  I’ll be back later in the week with that post – I’ve got a little something up my sleeve…

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