Not long before I went, I read about Rancho Gordo beans on one of the blogs from the Dark Days Challenge last spring. I figured "what the heck? I'll be in Napa, so I should see if I could find it."
What is Rancho Gordo, you ask? Try this novel concept: a store totally devoted to heirloom dried beans. This guy is passionate about beans, let me tell ya! It was such a charming store! We walked in and found several tables full of packages of all sorts of dried beans. Most of the varieties, I'd never heard of. And they were so varied and colorful. A lady walked up and asked us what she could help with and made suggestions. And, the owner, Steve Sando, was sitting right there at the counter on the phone talking about--you guessed it, Beans! We decided the best way to go would be to buy a gift box. It was 4 or 5 packages of your choice of beans, the cookbook, and a canvas tote. We shipped it back for a flat-rate $8. Also, the day before, we had taken an organized tour through Platypus Tours (I totally recommend them, too, BTW. If Karl is still a tour guide, see if you can book him) of wineries in Napa, and our tour included a picnic lunch. One of the picnic items was a quinoa salad. My mom was OBSESSED with this particular quinoa salad. It didn't stand out too much to me. She spotted some red quinoa and she told the lady about it this salad. The lady was even nice enough to find the recipe for the exact salad we had Platypus's website, print it off, and put it in the gift box with our order. (By the way, Mom has made the salad a few times and I think her's is better than the tour's. Here's the link, and it's called "Birthday Quinoa Salad"--third one down.)
So, this weekend, I was debating what to make for dinner tonight. I decided those three packages of beans have sat in my pantry for way too long, and soaked some of the Good Mother Stallard Beans. I love little more than a crockpot of any kind of beans ready for dinner when I get home from work, and cornbread made in my iron skillet. Satisfying, healthy and most importantly, delish!
photo credit: Rancho Gordo
They are certainly interesting looking. About the size of pintos, but bright red mottled with white swirls. Once you soak them, the color becomes a little more muted. Once you cook them... Katie bar the door!
My mom has the cookbook at her house, so I didn't make a recipe out of it. However, the package says they are best with some humble aromatic vegetables. So, that's just what I did.
A cup and a half of dried beans, one cup of vegetable broth, half a leek, one-forth an onion and a carrot, all chopped fine, two cloves of garlic, salt, pepper and 4 pieces of bacon. Fill up the rest of the crockpot with water. DE-LICIOUS!
The taste is richer than pintos. Actually, like pintos, but only better. Creamy comfort food. It contrasts nicely with the crunchy and coarse cornbread. I use local stone-ground cornmeal, and I put my iron skillet in the oven with about 1 tablespoon of canola oil while I am mixing up the cornbread to get hot. When you pour the batter in, it hisses.
I am so looking forward to lunch and dinner tomorrow, as beans are one of those things that get better the longer they're left over. And, I know I've got two more packages left to make. Yum.