Posts Tagged ‘rancho gordo’

Cranberry beans_DSC_4815

When I first started cooking, unless you had a garden it was rare to see any fresh beans other than green and wax beans in the market.  Nowadays, particularly if you shop the farmers market or at farm stands you will find all types of beans from fresh fava to lima to cannellini to soy to —well, you get the idea.  Among our favorite fresh (and dried) beans speckled cranberry beans stand out.  Zingone’s, my trusted neighborhood market (which I glory in my most recent book, An American Family Cooks), always has them beginning in the early fall so they are frequently on our menu.  Sometimes I just cook them in a little water or stock with some aromatics and herbs and use them to make salads.  Other times I mix them up into a great baked bean dish as in the following recipe (which should easily serve 6).  When the fresh ones are no longer on the market, I switch to dried beans from Rancho Gordo (www.ranchogordo.com) in Napa, California.


4 to 5 cups fresh cranberry beans

3 ripe tomatoes, peeled, cored, and quartered

2 tablespoons chopped sun-dried tomatoes

1 tablespoons minced garlic

1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage

⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil plus more to season after cooking

Salt and pepper to taste

 Preheat the oven to 375°F.

 Lightly coat the interior of a 2 quart casserole with olive oil.

Combine the beans, tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, and sage in a large mixing bowl.  Add the ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole and then add cold water to just barely cover the beans.

Cover the entire casserole with aluminum foil to tightly seal.  Poke a small hole in the center of the top to allow steam to escape.

Transfer to the preheated oven and bake for about 1 hour or until the liquid has evaporated and the beans are very soft.

Remove from the oven, uncover, and serve drizzled with extra virgin olive oil.  The beans are also delicious served at room temperature with some balsamic vinegar added to the drizzle.


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Since the weather has cooled down – ranging from the high 40s to 50s, braises, stews, and soups have come to mind.  The other day Steve suggested some chili – not the Texas kind said he, but the kind with chunks of ground meat.  Told him he had to wait a day ‘cause I would have to soak some beans before I could put the chili together.  I always have dried beans on hand, usually from Rancho Gordo (www.ranchogordo.com), but they do take some extra time to soak so you can’t whip up a bowl of red in a few.  (Although if you are really desperate you can use canned beans and have a pot going pretty darned quick).  Lots of chefs disagree about the soaking part and boil dried beans for an hour and then proceed with a recipe.  I do not like firm beans, so I follow the old rule of soaking in cool water for at least 8 hours.

So, I soaked a pound of pinto beans overnight and then got the pot going the next morning.  I decided I would make the same chili I had seen my mom make hundreds of times – rich, filling, and aromatic.  Here’s what I did.

Drained the beans of their soaking water and then added enough cold water to cover them by at least 2½ inches.  Placed over high heat and brought to a boil; then, lowered the heat and kept them simmering while I tended to the other ingredients.

Using a one of my great nonstick Scanpan frying pans, I sautéed about 2 pounds of lean ground beef (You can also use ground pork, chicken, or turkey or big chunks of beef stew meat.  I’m not a fan of lamb chili, but if you like the flavors, why not?) along with a large diced onion, about half a head of chopped garlic cloves, and one jalapeño chile.  (If you like, you can also add some chopped bell pepper to the mix).  The pan was a little too full so it took a bit of time to get the meat browned and most of the liquid to evaporate.  This was good because it gave the beans some time to soften slightly.  I added the meat to the simmering beans along with a lot of seasoned chili powder, ground cumin, and ground pure chile powder along with smaller amounts of cayenne, dried oregano, and red pepper flakes.  All of these should always be done to taste – I like mucho heat and lots of seasoning, but you don’t have to agree with me.  I let the mix simmer for about 30 minutes and then I added one large can of tomato puree and one large can of diced tomatoes along with a couple of tablespoons of tomato paste.  Seasoned with salt and black pepper and let the whole mess simmer for another hour or so.  Then, I took the pan off the heat and let the mix cool down before putting it back on the heat to get very hot for dinner.

I always serve chili with some diced sweet onion on top – I love the contrast of the crisp, cool sweetness with the flaming hot chili.





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In a post from November 2010, I boasted about our discovery of The Fremont Diner in Sonoma, California and promised we would go back every time we were in the San Francisco Bay Area.  Well, we haven’t made it back every time, but we did this last visit.  It is the most wonderful, laid-back, welcoming place to start the day – even if you have to take a drive to find it.  This visit didn’t find us being as piggy as usual, but we didn’t leave hungry, either.  Our favorite dish was something called “Breakfast Beans” – a plateful of very flavorful beans (I’m sure that they came from Rancho Gordo – http://www.ranchogordo.com – my favorite bean brokers) – topped with a perfectly poached egg and served with 2 big slices of toast to scoop up the whole mess.  An easy dish to try at home IF you have a knack for cooking up batches of wonderfully flavored dried beans.


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A week ago I cooked up a batch of dried borlotti beans that I had brought home from my favorite bean brokers, the Rancho Gordo (www.ranchogordo.com) stand (see my post, February 17, 2011) at the San Francisco Ferry Plaza market.  Had a pasta dish, had a salad, and still had some beans left.  So, I poured them into a big pan and added all the necessary veggies – a couple of carrots, a zucchini, a large onion, a couple of cloves of garlic, some frozen corn and peas, mushrooms, a red bell pepper, lima beans, a large can of diced tomatoes – to make a mammoth pot of kinda minestrone – I left out the bits of prosciutto or pancetta that would have made it authentic.  Once the veggies had cooked a bit, I added some elbow macaroni (that I always have to make the go-to mac ‘n cheese for my currently vegetarian granddaughter) and a good bit of salt and pepper.  It was 20 degrees outside and the big bowls of soup, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkled with a fresh grating of parmesan cheese couldn’t have been more delicious or more warming when supper rolled around.

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