Sadly, I arrived late to the Rancho Gordo party, but now that I am here, I can’t stop talking about Rancho Gordo heirloom beans. They are meaty and flavorful, and there is a stunning variety of them. The beauty of beans is that they are a near-perfect food. They are healthy and nutritious, they can be eaten hot or cold, in any weather, and they require almost no work. If you use a pressure cooker, beans also qualify as fast food. Once cooked, they are forgiving and can be mixed and matched with all manner of foods, not to mention all your leftovers. What can’t you do with beans? Soup, salad, with rice, with potatoes, with or without meat, yogurt, sour cream, and all manner of vegetable. There are even desserts made with beans — from brownies with hidden beans that fool the kiddos to Japanese ice cream. Every Friday night, we eat down the refrigerator and beans play no small role in this ritual. A long-time bean lover, I am constantly amazed by the flavor of Rancho Gordo beans. No, they don’t ask or pay me to say this; they don’t even send me free beans. Sniff.
In fact, I resisted the lure of Rancho Gordo for quite a while, because I am loathe to violate my cardinal rule of never paying for shipping. Mind you, I don’t resent taxes: governments are entitled to collect taxes. Taxes are [supposed to be] used to build schools and roads for cryin’ out loud. No, what gets my goat is the irksome commercial practice of requiring the customer to pay for what is a company’s necessary business expense and, therefore, a legitimate deductible business expense for it. Yeah, yeah, I know about the accounting practice justification, but I don’t care. Why? Because consumers get no tax break for paying for shipping and the company does. And, cynical moi, I always suspect that businesses double-dip. But, alas, once I tried the beans, my high dudgeon was doomed. So, I order about 12 pounds of beans at a time to meet their $75 free shipping minimum (the beans last two years), and thus I tamp down my consumer outrage. Rancho Gordo beans typically triple in size with cooking, and remember that one serving of beans is usually 1/4 cup.
The versatility of beans is nothing short of astonishing. To the left, a small dish of Rancho Gordo’s Christmas Limas, simply dressed with just a little olive oil and salt. Christmas Limas are striated with maroon in their dried state and have a distinct taste and texture reminiscent of chestnuts. The flavor of their broth alone is remarkable.
Having vented, then, here is a recipe for gigantes that I made with Rancho Gordo large lima beans.
Gigantes DishnDat Style
1 pound dried large lima beans (soaked 6 hours & cooked in a pressure cooker for 20 minutes)
1/2 to 1 cup reserved bean broth (or water)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 24-ounce can San Marzano tomatoes, including the juice
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 onion chopped
1/2 tablespoon dried tarragon
2 tablespoons honey
- Heat the oven to 350°;
- Drain the cooked beans, reserving 1 cup of the bean broth*;
- In a Dutch oven, heat the oil and cook the onions and garlic;
- Add all the other ingredients, reserving 1/2 cup of the broth or water;
- Cover the pot with aluminum foil and bake for 90 minutes;
- Remove the foil, add more broth or water, and bake for another 30 minutes;
- Remove from oven and serve with rice, on top of a baked potato, sprinkled with chopped mint and crumbled feta, or just as is.
*Hint: Don’t discard the bean broth, but freeze it for later use. It makes a delicious soup base; I also use bean broth, combined with water, to cook roasted chicken or turkey carcasses for stock.