Wednesday, December 3

Mean Pinto Beans with Bacon and Arugula

As the economy spirals into oblivion, you may well be reconsidering your food budget. And dried beans are a smart item to factor in. They're packed with all sorts of stuff your body and your wallet will love! Like flavor and cheapness and fiber and nutrients.

Thing is, beans taste like dirt unless you season and add some meaty flavor. To get going, I use the smartest invention since windmills and solar panels, the pressure cooker, to turn dried beans into a versatile base ingredient in just about 20-25 minutes.

Start with Flavorful Beans
I start with 3 cups of Rancho Gordo pinto beans, 7 cups of suitably salted water, a couple of bay leaves, some cumin, a tablespoon of dried Turkish oregano, a couple of Szechuan pepper pods and several grinds of black pepper.

The basic recipe for dried beans calls for soaking overnight, draining, then cooking in water or stock. If you use a pressure cooker, as I recommend, follow the manufacturer's instructions. My 15-year old Fagor Rapida requires just 20-25 minutes to get the beans to al dente, destroy the gastric problem-causing sugars, and infuse initial flavors into the bean.

Believe it or not, pressure cooking puts dried beans into the category of practical and realistic for weekday meals. If you do it the traditional way, you'll need hours. Pressure cookers are the bomb! In the good way!! All of the current models are PERFECTLY SAFE. Mine is 15 years old and safe as houses were before the economy did it's swan dive.

Finish the Beans
Once the beans are seasoned and al dente, drain off the cooking liquid and reserve it, then reboot your tongue and think about how to finish them. Today, I sauteed a couple of chopped onions and 4 strips of Niman Ranch smoked bacon chopped into one quarter inch pieces with salt and pepper.

After adding two tablespoons of dried, ground ancho chili to the beans, the somewhat browned and caramelized contents of my saute pan, two handfuls of baby arugula, and a couple of cups of the reserved cooking liquid, I set the pot on low and let the arugula wilt and the ancho to thicken, about 10 minutes.

That's it! And it only cost 10 bucks for 6 servings...not bad. Add some rice or even just a few slices of good bread and you're done.

3 cups of dried pinto beans, cooked and seasoned with salt, cumin, oregano, hot pepper pods and ground black pepper. Yields about 6 cups of cooked beans.
2 medium onions chopped and sauteed in 1 tbs of peanut oil
2 tbs of dried, ground ancho chili
4 thick cut smoked bacon strips, chopped into pieces
2-3 handfuls of baby arugula

Season and cook the pintos, saute the onions with the bacon, combine with ancho chili, arugula and a couple of cups of cooking liquid... simmer until the ancho thickens and the arugula wilts and ladle over rice or serve with a couple of slices of good bread.

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