If you are like me, regularly drooling over fabulous foodie blogs like 101cookbooks.com, chocolate and zucchini, and Last Night's Dinner, you've hopefully heard about Rancho Gordo beans. But if you haven't, consider this my hearty endorsement.
I must admit, I'm not tough to please in this department. I love beans. Refried beans, lima bean soup, black beans and rice, white bean dip, three-bean salad...I love 'em all. But aside from once making the aforementioned lima bean soup with a ham hock and Publix brand dried limas, I'd never cooked beans from scratch. Why take all that time when canned beans are so easy?
...Because they taste so much better, that's why. Truly. And Rancho Gordo heirloom beans...well, they're in a class all their own. I'll let their Web site explain more. I got my dad a few varieties for Christmas, and he loved them, so I'd been meaning to order some myself. I finally got some, but then it took me a month and a half to get around to cooking them. But, the day finally came, and I am here to report that They. Were. Awesome.
I ordered black beans, craberry beans, and Christmas Limas. I decided to try the Christmas Limas first. I soaked them for 5 hours, then cooked them for another 3 1/2 hours. With nothing but water and a dash of salt in the last 30 minutes of cooking, the beans cooked beautifully and created a mohogany-colored pot liquor. The beans themselves were nutty, tender, and creamy. Fabulous.
I ate a bowl—plain, save for some Louisiana hot sauce—for lunch one day, but I wanted to try a little something more...exciting, so I built a vegetarian salad using the beans, some veggies, a zesty lime dressing, and a few handfuls of cooked whole-wheat couscous. It ended up being a light, filling, healthy one-bowl meal.
serves 4 as a side, or 2 for dinner with leftovers
Of course I now must recommend dried heirloom beans for this salad, but if you must, canned beans will work in a pinch. One 14.5-ounce can of drained, rinsed black beans or butter beans would work well here.
1 small lime, zested and juiced
Extra-virgin olive oil (to taste)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 ripe avocado
3/4 cup vegetable broth
2/3 cup whole-wheat couscous
1 cucumber, peeled and diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 pound dried Christmas Lima beans, cooked and drained
In a medium bowl, combine the lime zest and juice. Whisk in olive oil, tasting as you go, until you get a dressing that you like. (We like ours on the very tangy side, but just keep tasting as you drizzle.) Add salt and a few grinds of pepper. Dice the avocado, and put it directly into the dressing. Set aside.
Bring the broth to a boil in a saucepan over high heat, and then stir in the couscous. Remove from heat, cover, and let steam for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork.
In a large bowl, combine the avocado and dressing, cucumber, red pepper, and beans. Toss gently to combine. Add the couscous, and toss to evenly coat everything with the dressing. Serve.