Pinto Beans

Illustrations by John BurgoynePhoto: Hannah Whitaker/New York Magazine

Unstintingly nutritious, not to mention cheap and delicious—what’s not to love about beans? One drawback: The dried ones you find stowed away on supermarket shelves are often several years old. That’s not the case with the beans from Cayuga Pure Organics, a farm outside of Ithaca, which recently began selling Wednesdays at the Union Square Greenmarket. These pintos, for instance, were harvested in October, ensuring a relatively short cooking time and thus greater flavor retention. They’re at their best when cooked simply, as in this recipe from California’s cult beanery Rancho Gordo.

Rancho Gordo’s Pot Beans

1 pound pinto or beans of your choice
1 tablespoon lard or extra-virgin olive oil
1 white onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, smashed
2 teaspoons salt or to taste
4 limes, cut in half
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

Rinse beans in cool water, checking for bits of debris and any shriveled specimens, then place in a bowl or pot. Cover with about 1 inch of cold water and soak 2 to 6 hours. (1) In a stockpot over medium heat, warm the lard or olive oil. Add the garlic and half of the chopped onion, reserving the rest for garnish, and sauté until translucent, about 10 minutes. (2) Add the beans and their soaking water. Add more cold water if needed to cover the beans by at least 1 inch. Raise the heat to high, bring to a rapid boil, and cook for 5 minutes. Reduce the heat so that the beans are barely simmering and cook, partially covered, until the beans are soft, about 1 to 1½ hours. Season the beans with salt, keeping in mind that it takes time for the beans to absorb the salt. (3) Ladle beans into warmed bowls, and top each with a squeeze of lime, a spoonful of chopped onions, and a sprinkle of cilantro. Serves 6 to 8.

Adapted from Heirloom Beans: Great Recipes for Dips and Spreads, Soups and Stews, Salads and Salsas, and Much More From Rancho Gordo, by Steve Sando and Vanessa Barrington, Chronicle Books, 2008.

Pinto Beans