I remember there was a time when I found beans utterly ho-hum.
I couldn’t imagine what could be that exciting about them. I was always more interested in what was with them or around them.
That was until I discovered Napa’s Rancho Gordo beans.
That’s when I realized beans could be comforting, surprising, satisfying and with far more flavor and character than I’d ever imagined.
Founder Steve Sando sources astounding heirloom beans with such evocative names as Christmas Lima Bean, Yellow Indian Woman Bean, and Good Mother Stallard Bean.
At least once a year, I make a purchase of an assortment of his beans, most of which carry me through the chilly winter in numerous dishes. But they’re equally delicious when the weather is still warm, such as in dishes like “Alubia Blanca Bean Salad with Pineapple Vinaigrette.”
It’s a recipe from his cookbook, “The Rancho Gordo Vegetarian Kitchen,” which he wrote with Julia Newberry last year. As the name implies, it’s filled with meat-less recipes that star all manner of beans.
Alubia Blanca are small, white Spanish-style beans that cook up creamy while still holding their shape. As such, they’re ideal in salads, soups and stews.
This bean salad is as easy as it gets. The vinaigrette is not made with fresh pineapple, but with pineapple vinegar, which Rancho Gordo also makes. It doesn’t have a strong pineapple taste, but a more subtle tropical fermented tang. It would be great in ceviche or in a shrub garnished with a caramelized pineapple wedge.
The vinaigrette gets a piquant note from Dijon mustard and earthy herbaceousness from dried oregano.
The beans get tossed with that, along with shaved raw carrot, roasted red pepper, radishes and celery. I also added a little chopped parsley because I had some on hand.
It makes for a great side dish to almost anything.
And it’s sure to give you new appreciation for the humble bean.
Alubia Blanca Bean Salad with Pineapple Vinaigrette
(Serves 2 to 4)
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
2 tablespoons Rancho Gordo Pineapple Vinegar
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 carrot, peeled
1 1/2 cups cooked Rancho Gordo Alubia Blanca Beans, cooked and drained (see Note)
1 roasted red pepper, cut into 1/2-inch dice
3 radishes, thinly sliced
1 celery stalk, chopped
Fresh parsley leaves, chopped (optional)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
In a salad bowl, make a paste with the garlic and salt by mashing together. Add mustard, oregano, and pineapple vinegar; mix well. Slowly whisk in the olive oil.
Shave the carrot into razor-thin slices using a mandoline or vegetable peeler. Add the beans, roasted red pepper, radishes, celery, carrot slices, and parsley, if using, to the vinaigrette; toss together gently. Season with salt and pepper. Serve slightly chilled or at room temperature.
Note: For 1 1/2 cup cooked beans, you’ll need to start with about 1/2 cup dried beans. Soak them in a bowl or pot of water either overnight or in the morning for a few hours, covering them by at least an inch. In a saute pan over medium heat, add a little olive oil, then a mix of diced onion, celery and carrot, along with a crushed garlic clove if you like. Next, add the soaked beans to a large saucepan either with their soaking water or drain them and add fresh water, covering by a couple of inches. Add the sauteed vegetables and stir. Bring to a boil on medium-high heat; let cook on a boil for about 5 to 10 minutes, then turn down the heat to a simmer. Place the lid on the pot ajar, and cook until beans are tender. Season with salt.
Adapted from “The Rancho Gordo Vegetarian Kitchen” by Steve Sando and Julia Newberry
Another Rancho Gordo Recipe To Try: Christmas Lima Beans with Parsley and Goat Feta Cheese