Sunday, November 4, 2012

New Mexico Red Chile Beans

During my recent trip to New Mexico I tried the famous New Mexico green chile in a few places and definitely understood why it was so popular. I didn't go as far as to order it at every single opportunity since that included Sonic's Drive In or on Frozen Custard, but I did want to bring some New Mexico flavors home with me. I also really enjoy the connection you get with a place by eating food that comes from and grows natively and better in certain environments and New Mexico holds a special place in my heart, so I picked up some dried green and mild red chile powder and some Anasazi beans while there.  I hadn't tasted them, but the Anasazi beans caught my eye as something I hadn't seen before, so I decided to try them (If you're in Taos visiting the Rio Grande Gorge bridge, visit the guy selling beans there! He's an experienced salesman but his beans are good, so I kinda don't mind. Otherwise, you can also get them online or from Arrowhead Mills at some natural food or Whole Foods stores and in other places throughout the Southwest.) It turns out there's competing stories over whether Anasazi (or the ancient ones) really were "discovered" in a cave in the 1900's and sold as a touristy thing or were grown by Native Americans for a while. Even if they were a touristy things, they're good beans, so I can live with it! They were cultivated in the Navajo area of New Mexico/Arizona/Colorado/Utah where the plants thrive in the dry environment. Some people like them because they supposedly are less-fart inducing than other beans.

I've been sprinkling the red chile in all sorts of dishes the last few weeks (scrambled eggs, soup, veggies, mixed with cocoa powder on popcorn! Yum!) I've really been enjoying the complexity of the sweet and slightly spicy flavor. Last weekend I let myself experiment with the beans as well and although my recipe isn't based on anything in particular, they're pretty delicious. I'm not sure if anasazi beans always turn out so creamy or if they were just extra fresh, but they were by far some of the best beans I've ever tried. The recipes's vegan, but incredibly flavorful and filling. Served with guacamole on tortillas or fresh tortillas makes for a super yummy, satisfying meal. I use no canned ingredients if you're worried about additives (canned tomatoes seem to be really bad when it comes to BPA leaching) or cost (a few cans of this and that adds up! I picked up "soft" tomatoes at the farmers market that still taste fantastic if used the same day and had no pesticides used on them, for only 75 cents a lb!)

Anasazi beans are such pretty beans!
New Mexico Red Chile Beans - 3 servings for main dish, more if served as a side dish

  • ~1 cup dried Anasazi beans (or pinto or whatever else you want to use, just note you might need to soak/cook longer), rinsed and picked through for rocks
  • 1 large onion
  • 1/2 bell pepper/anaheim chile/poblano - whatever you have on hand!
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 4 medium-large tomatoes
  • few teaspoons olive oil
  • bay leaf
  • dried garlic powder or a few fresh garlic cloves
  • dried oregeno
  • salt and pepper
  • couple tablespoons of New Mexico Red Chile, or to taste

-Rinse and pick through dried anasazi beans. Put them in a pot and cover with water and let them sit about 4 hours.
-Wash tomatoes and puree in blender or some other device of your choice. Add a little water if needed. I also added a sprinkle of oregano here
-Drain the beans. Add the pureed tomatoes to the beans along with at least enough water to cover all the beans with bay leaf. Allow everything to simmer and check periodically to make sure there's enough water covering everything.
-Start chopping the onion, carrot and celery
-Warm up olive oil in a pan. Once warm, sautee onion, pepper, carrot and celery until soft. Add fresh garlic towards end if using it.
-Add the sauteed veggies to the beans. By this time, the beans have probably been cooking 30 mins or so and should be getting soft if using anasazi beans. Other varieties might need to cook for a bit longer.
-Add a few teaspoons of oregeno, the red chile, dried garlic (if using), and salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning.
-Continue to allow cooking until beans are soft. They can continue cooking after that point and they will likely continue to fall apart and make a yummy sauce if the beans are fresh. I think these beans taste even better after cooling and being reheated. Yuuuum.

I served these beans with some guacamole (avocado, salt, lime juice mashed together) and home-fried tortilla chips (corn tortillas, cut and cooked in a very shallow layer of olive oil and then drained on a paper towel)

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