In Context: Don’t Tease the Cook

February 24, 2023

Sometime before the Pandemic I read a New Yorker article about Steve Sando and Rancho Gordo (his bean business).

I’m not a vegetarian—though I did try for about 8 months one year in my young adulthood and I was so anemic from other health factors that I had to give it up and get back on the beef bandwagon.

But throughout my life I have encountered various bean recipes that have intoxicated me. I read the article and decided that I wanted to try some of Sando’s beans. 

He sells what are called “Heirloom” beans. (Yes, I mis-remembered and wrote Heritage on my little note when schooling Dick on why these aren’t “designer” beans.)

In a world where so much of the US food supply becomes tight and tasteless, I love what Sando has done with beans, and how he’s dealt with bean growers; and you can read about it on his website.

Even if you aren’t a vegetarian taste will matter to you; and all the beans I’ve purchased from Rancho Gordo have tasted beyond phenomenal. 

First, even if I don’t pre-soak the beans overnight, they cook up quickly. So quickly (like 90 minutes instead of 4 hours), that I’m constantly surprised. It’s because they are fresher. (Yes dry beans have a freshness timeline too.)

Second they are so tasty.

Rancho Gordo will send you cooking instructions for the “perfect” bean and it involves putting in a mirepoix of onion, celery and diced carrot—but sometimes I don’t even do that and I still get a fantastic bean broth when I cook these beans.

Third, their texture is amazing. With grocery store beans that have been around forever you have to fight to get the bean hydrated to a soft texture. With all the beans I’ve bought from Rancho Gordo there is a point when the bean changes from hard to texturally edible, and all I can say is this is the “non-mush” window of tasty texture that will change your life. Sometimes I make Dick taste a couple beans right out of the pot because I can’t believe how chewy and yet structural they are. It’s incredible. (Every bean pot is an adventure!)

While it’s true with all the RG beans some or their beans are more amazing than others. It might be because I never had them before or maybe, it’s that I haven’t even envisioned a bean like the Royal Corona bean could exist. (At this posting it’s sold out, but go put yourself on the wait list. Really, go do that right now!)

These beans vary a bit in size (as my chart indicates for one of their cousins in my thumbnail sketch), but most of the Royal Corona beans are about the size of my THUMB from the tip to the first joint!

They plump up into something amazing that when cooked is both chewy and pillowy. If you spice it right, they will not only take on flavors but impart their own lovely creaminess. This is the bean other beans want to be when they grow up. Five of them on a small bed of veggies and greens, when dressed with a homemade vinaigrette (preferably made with RG’s Pineapple Vinegar) is a meal. A meal that will keep you going for hours and hours with no cravings. (I find when I eat beans I’m able to control my blood sugar levels better, That’s point 4.)

Look, all this is a lot to write just to post a journal page where I have a quick sketch of a joke I shared with Dick. Will I create a bean poster? Well at some point I probably will because paging through my journals for the last 4 years or so I see a lot of pages devoted to beans. (What’s not to love, their bright colors or patterns, their shape and surface texture…)

When I was a child a Red Delicious Apple was a real treat.

When I came back to this country after a 5.5 year absence they were mealy and inedible. I didn’t know what to think. When the same thing happened to Granny Smiths I was frustrated and stopped baking pies. Apples and other food items we grow here in the US have changed over time. Demand, and the need for things to survive transit has led to a lot of tasteless food out there. As has the public need for everything to be uniform.

I love that I can get beans that taste wonderful on their own or in dishes with other ingredients. I love that I can get beans that don’t turn to mush but instead yield flavorful, satisfying bites. I love that someone is helping to keep bean genetic diversity.

I’m not connected to RG at all, except as a customer. I can’t recommend their quality enough. If you are on the line about eating a vegetarian diet, or you want less animal protein in your diet, this would be the place to start. 

Oh, I don’t recommend putting them into the Instapot. I tried that with an early bunch using a recipe from someone who claimed they were using Rancho Gordo beans—but his times were WAY off. I actually cried when they came out all mushy because they were my favorites and sold out!

I knew it wasn’t the beans because I’d made other batches, but I just thought on that day I needed to “save time.”  

Just cook them in a pot, the “old-fashioned” way. Walk off and do something like write a blog post, sketch your partner, come back and check, go check on something else, maybe make a pan of brownies or bake some bread. It’s a fantastic way to spend a Saturday. Chances are, if you’re like me, you’ve exercised and finished the cook before it’s even noon and have the rest of the day to play. And you have those wonderful beans waiting for you at dinner.

    • Tyanne
    • February 25, 2023

    Love Rancho Gordo beans which I think I learned about from you. I am making some red beans and rice this weekend (totally coincidental to this post) with the hidatsa red. Now I need to get on the list for the Royal corona (what do you use to season them?) I also really like their Paloma sauce flavorful without being hot. Maybe a journal page is in order

    1. Reply

      I am sorry I missed this note Tyanne. I used just about everything on the Royal Corona. I make a Pork shoulder Adobo which calls for beans and I used the RC in it and now I won’t use anything else, so those canned peppers in Adobo (I don’t have the can in front of me) are great if you like things really hot.

      I have also purchased the Pineapple vinegar, Castillo (Pimenton), New Red Chili Pepper, and the Mexican Oregano from Rancho Gordo. Sorry if I’ve got the spellings wrong but I’m not near the spice rack.

      I like to take a bit of onions and cook them down to be carmelized and then add spices to that to bloom, add the beans and a bit of their broth, cook for a short bit (because the beans are already cooked so it’s just warming them up and letting the spices get around) and then at the very end toss in a glug (about 2 TB) of the pineapple vinegar. And then those get served with diced potatoes I cook for 6 minutes in an Anyday Microwave dish and pan fry for about 2 minutes with onions (some I saved from cooking them down in the beans before I added the spices). It all happens very quickly and with frozen beans we are eating in less than 30 minutes. YUM.

      I’ll do the same thing and make Mexican rice which has chicken broth, onions, garlic, and peppers in it. Or even just rice and onions, and sometimes I’ll let the beans be a bit more brothy and serve them over pasta.

      I buy a lot of spices from Burlap and Barrel. I’ve used the whole Cardoz Collection, depending on what spices I feel like.

      I’ve also simply used cumin, coriander, garlic, onion, sometimes tomato sometimes not.

      Also from B&B I have the Adobo and Sazon from Maisonet. They are really good for the bean dishes I like to make. I’m particularly fond of the Sazon. (All used as I explained above, and finishing with that Pineapple vinegar.)

      And then I’ll also use the cooked beans COLD in salads and that’s with any vinaigrette I feel like making.

      The RC beans are actually a great substitute for the meat in a pasta salad with olives and veggies and pasta.

      I know I’m leaving some things out but this is what just jumps to mind.

      OH, most important I love the various black beans that RG sells and always cook up a batch of sofrito. I use the recipe in one of their Cookbooks. I’m pretty sure it’s on their website. I save it in 2-cup containers and pull it out when I want a base for black beans and rice or I just want those flavors with my potatoes etc.

      I hope this gives you a good idea. I also have bought lentils from RC and there are usually individual servings of those in the freezer. Usually they have Mexican spices, but I’ve been experimenting with some Provencal spices. And I also do them with curry spices and the Cardoz spices and then I make them pretty dry and serve them with yogurt and a salad.

      It’s a good thing I’m making beans tomorrow for New Year’s as this is making me hungry! Have a happy, healthy new year, I hope your knees keep improving! Here’s to being out and about!

    • Kare Furman
    • February 25, 2023

    Hi Roz! We are Rancho Gordo fans too. Every variety we’ve tried have been incredible, as you say, so full of flavor no matter what you add, or not, to them. We always cook them (un-soaked) in the InstantPot with consistently fabulous results – using the bean cooking chart in Vegan Under Pressure cookbook by Jill Nussinow, M.S., R.D.N.. I highly recommend the Mayocoba and Eye of the Goat beans.

    1. Reply

      Kare, I’m so sorry I didn’t see this message. Thanks for the heads up about the cooking chart in Nussinow’s book. I’ll look into that. The reality for me is it takes so little time to cook them just in a pot, and I hate the fussiness of cleaning the Insta pot, that I’ll probably keep cooking them just in a pot, but it is always great to have options. We have been getting the Eye of the Goat for some time, but this summer I tried the Mayocoba when they came in one of the Bean Club shipments and I love them. Thanks for the heads up! Hope you’re having some Hoppin’ John tomorrow! I’ve got my Lucky Black-eyed Peas ready to go!

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