A little while ago I placed a big order at Rancho Gordo Beans. I heard about them by posting on Chow to ask where a good place was to get the more unusual types of beans. Since then I’ve seen Rancho Gordo everywhere: the founder has as a new cookbook and has been making the rounds on the media circuit–which is in fact where this recipe comes from, from a feature in the New York Times magazine.
Here’s a close-up of the cooked beans.
Right now they are not available on the website, but a whole host of new beans are–I have a feeling they probably rotate types of beans pretty often–after all, there are thousands of heirloom varieties! You can see pretty quickly where the name “yellow eye” came from. But look also how robust they look: unlike most dried beans, there’s no mushiness or falling apart. That’s because they are so fresh, I imagine–funny to think about, but dried beans can have varying levels of freshness too. Once you do bite in, they seem to pop in your mouth and then its delicious and creamy. Cooking the beans has a delicious dividend–they make a lovely broth. You use the cooking liquid as the stock in this recipe and it’s absolutely delicious. The soup is light but filling and very fresh tasting (and hey Karen–it’s vegan!). The recipe is nothing too unusual–a basic vegetable base, so it’s really the beans that make this something truly special. Another reason I love these beans? Little E is crazy about them!!! I used up all my beans in this recipe, and I have to make it through several other types of Rancho Gordo beans (tepary, Indian woman, cranberry, Christmas lima, borlotti, etc) before I order more, but I will definitely be getting these guys again.
And as a final note: the most interesting thing I heard coming out of Steve Sando’s media junket was that you can even plant one of the beans and it will grow into a bean plant. Of course, I knew that in theory, that’s where beans come from, but it’s still pretty fun to think about!
Yellow Eye Bean Soup (adapted from the New York Times)
- 3 cups yellow eye or yellow Indian woman beans, soaked 4 to 6 hours if possible
- 1 carrot
- 2 ribs celery, halved
- 1 onion, quartered
- 1 head garlic, halved across the equator
- Stems from 1 bunch Italian parsley, (tied in a cheesecloth sachet if you have it)
- 2 tablespoons (kosher) salt
- 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
For the soup:
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- 3 large carrots, peeled and diced
- 5 ribs celery, diced
- 2 leeks, white and light green parts only, diced
- 1 head garlic, cloves peeled and finely grated
- 1 1/2 teaspoons red chili flakes, plus more to taste
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary or 2t dried
- 1 cup canned tomatoes, drained and chopped (if whole)
- 1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley
1. Prepare the beans: Drain the beans and place them in a large pot. Add 3 quarts cold water, the carrot, celery, onion, garlic and parsley stem sachet. Bring to a boil, skimming off any foam that rises to the top. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and cook until the beans are soft and creamy, but not falling apart. (Start checking after 25 minutes; the fresher the beans and the longer the soak, the shorter the cooking time.) Add the salt, pepper and olive oil. Discard the sachet and vegetables. Let the beans cool in the liquid.
2. Prepare the soup: Pour the olive oil into a large pot set over medium heat. Add the carrots, celery, leeks, garlic, chili and rosemary. Cook until the rawness of the vegetables is just gone and the colors brighten, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook until slightly caramelized, about 3 minutes more. Add the beans and their cooking liquid, bring to a boil and simmer until the vegetables are tender, 5 to 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Just before serving, add the parsley.