The PB&J Campaign is not just about the PB&J (though it is a classic and delicious sandwich, easy to make, and incredibly cheap) as a way to save land and water, cut pollution, and fight global warming. Other plant-based meals work well too, in particular anything based on beans.
Obviously beans have an image problem. There’s the old poem (beans, beans, they’re good for heart…) to contend with, but also their general reputation as a basic, boring food turns people off. We can wax eloquent about the glories of exotic grains (amaranth, spelt, etc.); it’s time for a similar bean revival!
Luckily Rancho Gordo is leading that campaign. This is a company out in Napa Valley in California that sells heirloom bean varieties – getting us past the old canned lima and kidney beans and into the exciting territory of the scarlet runners and Mexican varieties like Rebosero and Ayocote Morado, plucked from obscurity through their partnership with central Mexican farmers, the Rancho Gordo/Xoxoc project. Aside from the inherently fun cultural and culinary project, Rancho Gordo is helping to turn the beans from the also-ran on the plate into a gourmet staple that we can get just as excited about as any fancy tomatoes or obscure chicken breeds.
These bean varieties might be inherently tasty, and they might be great because Rancho Gordo places a lot of attention on selling fresh beans (after a few years dry beans decline in quality, so what you buy in the supermarket might be too old to cook up well and taste good), but either way I (Bernard Brown) decided to put in an order (note that this was full price – no special deals involved) for a big box of heirloom beans to try for myself. I’ll be working on a variety per week, so stay tuned for recipes featuring them.
First up, the Ojo de Cabra! That translates into Eye of the Goat (I’m sure some of you are sighing in relief that we’re not cooking up goat eyeballs), and Rancho Gordo’s website was emphatic that it is a great bean to cook very simply. All I did was cook them with onion and garlic and eat them with some salsa, and sure enough they were delicious – hearty with a little bit of a roasted corn flavor in there.
Exactly how did I cook them? Well, my tool of choice is a pressure cooker for speed (about 20 minutes) but a friend I spoke with is a crock pot devotee (more time, less attention), and you could also just take the hour or so and cook them on the stove top – all these assume soaking ahead of time.
Here is the bag o’beans, straight out of the Rancho Gordo box:
I soaked them (I did the whole 1 lb at once) in the pressure cooker, starting first thing in the morning to be cooked in the late afternoon.
I added 2 chopped medium onions and three cloves of garlic before cooking, added some more water to cover them by about an inch, and then cooked them for 20 minutes in the pressure cooker.
And here they are with a little bit of salsa on top – perfect!