Vaquero beans are so beautiful, I wish I had photographed some for you before I soaked them. They do, however, maintain their lovely markings even after cooking, along with their shape and a toothsome texture. This is a pretty classic bean stew: tomatoes, sausage, aromatic vegetables and a little cilantro or parsley to finish things off. Truly, any bean will work in this recipe, so why not take the opportunity to explore an heirloom varitety that you’ve never tasted? Rancho Gordo, where I got the vaquero beans, has dozens of varieties (and flat rate $8 shipping!), many of which you’ve probably never heard of; locally, Cayuga Pure Organics grow classic varieties (kidney, navy, black bean) at their Ithaca-area farm, but in recent years have expanded their crop to include heirloom varieties like Jacob’s Cattle Bean, Yellow Eye, Orca and Adzuki. Check their online shopping cart for availability of the 2010 harvest. Iowan locavores can rejoice that the Seed Savers Exchange sells more than a dozen heirloom varieties of cooking beans as well as seed beans for growing (and they can ship to the rest of us, too!).
Way back in the beginning of this blog, one of my New Year’s resolutions was to cook more using dried beans, specifically so that I could try out more heirloom varieties and hopefully source local beans. I must say I haven’t looked back since; while there is usually a can of garbanzo beans in the pantry, handy for last-minute hummus in case guests drop by, for the most part I’ve stopped buying canned beans, while at the same time exploring the wide, wide world of heirloom beans. We eat beans now more than we ever did back when I was using “convenient” canned beans. So consider putting heirloom beans on your list of things to try this year: you may just find that you never look back.
- 1 lb dried Vaquero beans (or substitute Anasazi, Yellow Eye or white runner beans), soaked overnight
- 12 oz chorizo sausage, thinly sliced or crumbled
- 1 large yellow onion, chopped
- 3 medium carrots, chopped
- 2 celery stalks, chopped
- 2 and 1/4 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 1, 28-oz can (or 2 pints) fire-roasted tomatoes, with juice
- 1 tsp sea salt, or to taste
- Brown the sausage, in batches if necessary, in a medium (4-quart) stockpot or Dutch oven (add a little olive oil or bacon grease to promote browning if the sausage is very lean). Using a slotted spoon, remove sausage to a bowl and set aside.
- In the same pot, saute the onion, carrots and celery in the sausage grease (add a bit more fat if necessary to keep the vegetables from sticking) over medium-low heat until softened, but not browning, about 10 minutes. Add the cumin, cayenne pepper, paprika and garlic and saute for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, with juice, breaking up whole tomatoes with a wooden spoon. Add the browned chorizo.
- Drain the beans, reserving the soaking liquid; add beans to the pot, stir, then add soaking liquid until beans, vegetables and sausage are just covered. Raise heat to bring mixture to a simmer, then cover pot, reduce heat to low and simmer until the beans are tender about 1 hour (or more, depending on the age & type of bean). Add salt in the last 15 minutes or so of cooking; taste and adjust other spices. Remove the cover from the pot and simmer until the liquid is reduced & thickened slightly; you can also mash some of the beans against the side of the pot to thicken the stew.
- Serve hot with brown rice, cornbread or whole wheat biscuits. Garnish with fresh cilantro or parsley and a dash of cayenne to spice it up or a grating of cheddar cheese to calm it down.
Serves 8 to 10.
- With tomatoes, beans and sausage, I guess this is basically a chili, although without any chiles in it (except ground cayenne), and not being very spicy, it feels more like a stew. It doesn’t have that classic chili flavor to me.
- The flavor in this stew really comes from the beans (and good-quality sausage); I encourage you to search out an heirloom variety bean that you’ve never tried before. This is a very flavorful dish, but I think it would be pretty boring with a standard white navy bean.
- If you have access to quality heirloom dried beans in your foodshed, this dish can be completely local with the exception of a few spices. If not, maybe it’s a good excuse to visit New York (and Cayuga Pure Organics booth at the Greenmarket) or San Francisco (and Rancho Gordo at the Ferry Market)!
Refrigerated for about 1 week. Like all stews, this will thicken, and only improve, on the second day.
Year round, but ideally winter into early spring.