This is a classic ‘from heels to spurs’ dish. It crosses cultural, nutritional and culinary boundaries, meeting in a perfectly wholesome and flavorful meal, even if not as pretty as some. For years, I worked with polarized groups in conflict over land issues, each side often standing for important values that sustain us. One of the most polarized of these groups are environmental activists and ranchers.This dish brings them to mind. It wears Birkenstocks and cowboy boots, with a touch of class. Granted, it strays from traditional cowboy beans just as it strays from a whole foods café. The dish is greater than the sum of its parts – a win-win. True collaboration on a plate.
This is one of many reasons collaboration on land issues is a good idea. We can maintain open space while stewarding the land. Looking out the door this morning as the sun came up:
This recipe is adapted from one of my newer cookbooks, Bean by Bean by Crescent Dragonwoman (I wonder what the story is behind her name). I’ve only tried a few recipes to date, but the author’s knowledge and sense of adventure with the lowly bean fascinates me. She has uncovered countless bean recipes from around the world, adapts some, and shares them with us. She also shares stories and recipes of friends that inspire or touch me.
A cherished friend, author, and nutritionist, Daniella Chace, taught me a great deal about beans over the years. Did you know, if eaten regularly, beans speed up your metabolism and no longer cause gas? Add to that, they are low in calories and cost. Beans, when paired with whole grains such as brown rice or whole grain bread, are a complete protein – you don’t have to eat them together, anytime the same day is fine. Beans are a fantastic source of fiber, minerals and other nutrients; rich in iron, magnesium, B vitamins – including folic acid. These are important, life-sustaining qualities. They are cowboy wisdom at its finest.
One last thing about beans. Beans are legumes, as are peas and alfalfa. They are powerful natural nutrients for the soil. Healthy soil is the foundation for life on the planet and, in my opinion, should be our first environmental concern. Legumes fix nitrogen in the soil, thereby feeding the soil as it grows. This is quite a feat. A truly cyclical life form – giving back as it receives. I think I’m falling in love with the bean. I love reciprocal relationships.
Here’s how you make it:
3 Tb olive oil
2 large onions
1/4 cup loosely packed, grated fresh ginger (yes – 1/4 cup )
5 – 6 cloves garlic
1 small hot jalapeño or Serrano chile, diced (more or less based on your heat preference)
1 15 oz can diced, fire-roasted tomatoes with liquid (I love Muir Glan Organic Fire Roasted Tomatoes, and buy it by the case from Amazon so it’s always on hand. Getting to a large grocery store that carries specialty items isn’t easy at the ranch, and carrying heavy grocery bags in Brooklyn on the walk home is not my favorite thing to do.)
1 4 oz can diced green chiles (fire roasted)
1 can garbanzo beans, drained well (save the liquid)
1 can black beans, drained well
1 can red kidney beans (I didn’t use them - none on hand)
1 can white hominy (posole), drained well
1 bunch fresh cilantro, stems off and a few leaves reserved for plating.
Saute onions in olive oil until limp.
Add garlic and jalapeño. Cook for a few minutes, then add ginger for another minute.
Add tomatoes and green chiles. Allow them to heat through.
Add beans. Cook long enough to allow the flavors to blend, and heat through. About 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Stir in the cilantro towards the end of cooking.
Top with reserved cilantro.
Serve with hot polenta or brown basmati rice. And hot sauce for the brave.
If locals are coming for dinner, I’d serve a steak alongside.
Note: This dish does not have much liquid, so stir to prevent burning. If it seems too dry, use some of the reserved liquid from the beans to moisten it while cooking. If you prefer, add a little vegetable broth to deepen the flavor.