Have you ever eaten heirloom beans, cooked slowly with nothing but water and maybe a bay leaf? If it doesn’t sound too appetizing, scout some out . . . . you are in for a big surprise. Here in California we are lucky to have easy access to Rancho Gordo heirloom beans. Not only do they have an astounding number of beans including Red Nightfall, Yellow Indian Woman, Vallarta, Tepary (Brown and White), Santa Maria Pinquito, Rio Zape, Ojo de Cabra, Black Calypso, Vaquero, Yellow Eye, Good Mother Stallard, Lilo, Ayocote Blanco, Sangre de Toro, Flor de Junio, Bayo Chocolate . . . you get the picture . . . but their newsletter is always a fun and informative read.
I thought using heirloom beans would be a great starting point for my guest post for my dear friend Elaine over at Foodbod. I started following Elaine immediately upon reading her “About” page and the moving story of how a tragedy brought her to appreciate life and ultimately find peace with her own body and a new relationship with food. Elaine, despite being a vegetarian, loyally favorited my posts and commented on them, even though they were full of bacon and burgers. We’ve always shared a love of roasted vegetables both whole and “mushed,” especially cauliflower and eggplant, or as Elaine calls it, “aubergine,” and Elaine is the master of mezze. And yet now, a year later, my cooking is meeting up with Elaine’s in a more vegetarian inspired slant. I’m not eating near as many burgers or rashers of bacon since my husband and I started our 40 day yoga challenge (I’ll post about that later), and it’s been so helpful to have Elaine’s blog as a recipe guide and inspiration.
I settled on soup for these beans, but not a pureed soup. I wanted to taste and chew the whole beans. I found the most unusual recipe calling for white beans in the recent tome of a cookbook, Mexico: The Cookbook, by Margarita Carrillo Arronte. I was asked to review the book and I must say that many of the recipes look very good, but I am annoyed by the lack of headnotes. There are no headnotes to any of the recipes, which means you don’t get historical or other background information. Not cool.
The recipe called for toasted sesame seeds, masa, chayote, squash blossoms and mint. I added my own touches — a dollop of jalapeno pepper pesto, a squeeze of lime, and a hibiscus flower. My husband went koo koo for this soup, although I must warn you, as good as it is, it ain’t diet food. You may not eat for a couple of days after a bowl of this stuff. In fact, just for fun I added up all of the calories and it rivals a truck driver’s Thanksgiving plate including dessert. But you do get a heck of a lot of nutrients and it really hits the spot on a cold winter evening, so do give it a try! If you don’t want the truckdriver’s waistline, you could easily use less sesame seed and masa, even less beans, and more broth and vegetables.
As I was cooking up the Ayocote Blanco beans for the featured soup, periodically I tasted them for doneness and I simply could not believe the flavor and texture — buttery, earthy and creamy. No chalkiness or insipid metal flavor, just delicious intact plump beans in a savory broth. I easily could have eaten a bowl solo for dinner. The Ayocote Blanco beans I bought are part of Rancho Gordo’s Xoxoc project that helps small farmers grow their indigenous crops in Mexico, despite international trade policies that seem to discourage genetic diversity and local food traditions.
Here’s the recipe:
Pascal de Frijol (Bean Pascal)
- 1 cup sesame seeds, toasted
- 2 1/4 cups (9 oz/250 g) masa harina (masa is naturally gluten free but please check packaging information as to whether it may have been processed near wheat, nuts, etc. for allergens)
- 2 cups cooked white beans, drained and cooking liquid saved
- 1/2 onion, halved
- 2 chayotes, peeled, cored and diced
- 1 bunch fresh squash flowers (if you don’t have or cannot find squash blossoms or flowers, simply leave them out as they do not have much flavor)
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped mint
- 6 epazote leaves, finely chopped
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1 lime
- 1 tablespoon Sriracha
1. Grind toasted sesame seeds in a blender or food processor. Mix masa with 1/2 cup water, stir well, and add to sesame seeds. Stir well.
2. Pour 4 1/2 cups water into a saucepan, add beans and onion, bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes.
3. Add masa and sesame mixture to beans and cook for 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Add chayote, squash flowers, cilantro, and mint, season to taste with salt and pepper and cook an additional 5 minutes. Stir in sriracha.
4. Ladle into bowls and squeeze half a lime over each portion. Enjoy!
Note: you can also add a touch of apple cider vinegar to your soup as I often do with bean soups, it cuts the heaviness and I think it helps digestion too. Also, if you have any pesto on hand or some chopped nuts, dollop a scoop onto the top for some added texture.