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.
Check out more heirloom bean recipes here at Local Kitchen, or consider picking up Steve Sando’s Heirloom Beans cookbook – I highly recommend it.
- 12 oz chorizo sausage, thinly sliced or crumbled
- 1 large yellow onion, chopped
- 3 medium carrots, chopped
- 2 celery stalks, chopped
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp sea salt, or to taste