Despite very liberal applications of chicken soup, I still have a cold and I know I’m cranky, but doesn’t it seem that September and October have been very November-y this year? Cold, damp, grey. It’s getting dark by 4:30pm and we haven’t even hit the end of Daylight Savings time yet. I’m really hoping that November takes an “Indian Summer or bust” attitude and brings us some of the crisp, bright blue sky, Fall weather that we’ve been missing. But in the meantime, I’m sniffling, laying on the couch watching old episodes of Buffy, and warming up the house, and my belly, with a hearty bowl of chile-spiked beans.
Ayocote negro beans from Rancho Gordo’s Xoxoc project are a beautiful, silky black runner bean, large and meaty, and like many heirloom varieities, have a taste that’s subtly different from your every day runner bean. They are grown on small farms in the Mexican state of Puebla under the Xoxoc Project, which helps farmers in Mexico find a market for indigenous bean varieties that have fallen out of favor both at home and abroad. As much as I love eating locally and do my best to support my local foodshed, I also love projects like this: one small farm helping another small farm to keep ancient plants & foods alive and viable. It connects us across cultures and across the ages, and, as it happens, makes a damn fine bowl of beans. Served over nicely roasted cauliflower, this dish is hearty enough for a full meal, or you could make it a side dish and round out the meal with a salad, grilled sausages, or some roasted chicken.
If you moved away from beans because you got tired of the four varieties available in your supermarket, or you simply never found them all that appealing in the first place, I encourage you to search out some heirloom varieties. They might just surprise you.
Inspired by Scarlet Runner Beans in Chile Sauce with Stuffed Squash Blossoms in Heirloom Beans by Steve Sando
- 1/2 lb dried ayocote beans (I used ayocote negro from Rancho Gordo; any dark runner bean is good a substitute)
- filtered water
- 1 ancho chile, stemmed and coarsely chopped
- 2 guajillo chiles, stemmed and coarsely chopped
- 2 tiny yellow onions (each golfball-sized), peeled and halved
- 4 large cloves garlic, peeled
- 1 tsp honey (I used buckwheat), optional
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- salt & freshly ground black pepper
- 8 – 10 cloves roasted garlic
- 1/2 head of cauliflower, stem trimmed and broken into florets (I used a gorgeous, peachy-orange variety from Madura Farms)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- Rinse beans well and remove any small pebbles or floating, overly dried beans. Cover with cool, filtered water by 2 inches and soak overnight. Alternatively, simply start cooking right away: they will just need longer to cook.
- Drain and rinse the soaked beans. Transfer to a Dutch oven or heavy pot, cover with filtered water by 1 inch, and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce heat and keep at a low simmer, covered, until beans begin to soften, about 1 hour.
- Meanwhile, in a small bowl, add 1 cup boiling water to dried chiles; weigh down with another bowl and allow to soften for about 10 minutes. Transfer chiles & liquid to the bowl of a food processor, add onion and raw garlic, and purée until smooth. Transfer the chile mixture to a small, heavy skillet and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring frequently, and adding water if necessary to prevent sticking, until the bitterness of the sauce mellows and becomes smoky, about 15 minutes. If there is still some residual bitterness, add the optional honey to smooth it out. Add cumin, salt and pepper (1/2 tsp and 1/4 tsp, respectively); taste and adjust seasonings.
- Once the beans have begun to soften, add the chile sauce and roasted garlic to the beans, stir well, cover and continue to cook over low heat until nearly tender, another 15 – 30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Toss the cauliflower florets in the olive oil and a bit of salt & pepper; arrange in a single layer on a baking dish and roast until just tender and beginning to crisp, about 25 minutes. Turn off the oven, but keep the cauliflower inside to keep warm.
- When the beans are nearly tender, remove the cover from your beanpot, raise the heat, and cook at a brisk boil, stirring frequently, to reduce & thicken the sauce. Taste and adjust seasonings; once the sauce has thickened to your liking, serve hot beans, with sauce, over a bed of cauliflower. Garnish with chopped fresh cilantro or oregano.
Serves 4 as a side, 2 – 3 as a main meal.
- The original recipe was quite different; basically I took the concept of runner beans and a chile sauce and ran with it. I encourage you to check out Heirloom Beans if you have not already: it’s one of my favorite cookbook aquisitions in recent memory.
- As I mention above, any dark runner bean will work in this recipe; it’s the meatiness of the bean and the chile sauce that makes these so tasty. Similarly, they’d be good served over a variety of roasted root vegetables, mashed potatoes, rice or other grain.
Refrigerated for up to 1 week.