Thursday, April 28, 2011

I've Bean the One

There are worse thing to do than eat at home, you know, even meatlessly eat at home. Yes, the margarita doesn't hurt (and lately we've taken, instead of going for a full salty rim, to giving the actual cocktail a light pinch of smoked sea salt). And in this case I was even luckier as my sweet partner whipped all this together--all I had to do was shake the cocktail shaker.

That said, the star on the plate are the beans, as they aren't just any beans, they're cooked from scratch and come from Rancho Gordo. If you don't know RG you should, and while the ones in the photo came from the Ferry Building in San Francisco, we now have the good fortune to be able to buy them right here in Santa Barbara at Lazy Acres. So do so, so they keep ordering and a happy feedback loop of good consumerism happens.

Rancho Gordo was created by Steve Sando, and those who had the good fortune to attend the Edible Institute back in January might remember his great presentation, as basically he's a complete character, larger than life and full of dry asides. At one point he decided to change his life and grow tomatoes to sell at the farmers' market in Napa, only to realize everyone grows tomatoes and he wasn't the best at it, and then you can't grow tomatoes for a big part of the year. That got him to try beans, as he discovered they had heirloom varieties just like the tomatoes. It wasn't necessarily going well till one day a famous chef ambled by and made a purchase. That chef--Thomas Keller. Soon, everyone wanted the beans the French Laundry wanted. And Rancho Gordo took off.

As I said, they're heirloom beans, and there really is a difference from type to type, from color to consistency to taste. The ones above, a bit obscured by cheese (yum), are Ojo de Cabra or Goat's Eye, a lovely beige-tan with a dark curl through it.

They cook to a spot where the skins are still firm but the inside is soft, but even better, they create a broth all their own (well, the mirepoix didn't hurt, but still). They end up tasting like they're cooked in some porky product without ever going near bacon. It's about as rich and fulfilling as you could care for a meal to be. When in doubt, a big salad alongside doesn't hurt--all that green balancing the dark. Plus you need someplace to put the avocado that should be part of pretty much every meal. For if you're going to celebrate New World beans--and Rancho Gordo is party central for such a celebration--you need to go for it.

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