First off, and before I get to the food, I have a conundrum. Apparently I’m a year late and a dollar short to jump on the domain wagon, but the domain cupcakepunk.com is taken (though not used) by a clothing designer based out of LA. I emailed her to see if, since she bought a year ago and hasn’t used it yet, she’d be willing to transfer ownership to me, but no dice. So the options are to either stay here with a WordPress domain or to redesign the image of the blog. On the one hand, I don’t mind the longer WordPress web address, but it would be nice to have an easy to use “brand”-based domain to use for freelance baking and for the blog. I’m not very “punky” anymore, so maybe a name change isn’t all that bad, but I worry about losing readership & things like that. So if you guys have any thoughts, I’d definitely love to hear them.

Now, onto the food. One of my favorite not-so-vegan food blogs is Homesick Texan, and while Lisa tends to post all things beefy (or meaty, at least), she does post some amazing easily-veganified vegetable ones. Her most recent post on Ranch Style Beans, apparently a canned chuck-style bean that doesn’t pack a lot of kick but does have a lot of flavor, caught my eye. I love beans and I’ve wanted to experiment more with dried chilies, so this recipe seemed like the perfect one to start with.

And boy, was she right. The beans, while not super spicy-hot, are extremely flavorful. The ancho chilies give a nice smoky depth while the tomatoes lend a brightness to the pot. One of the things I noticed while cooking them is that the broth doesn’t cook down as much as the baked beans I’m used to making–the beans are a perfect mid-ground between soup and chili.

My cooking time was close to four hours, but, as Lisa mentions, it can be as short as 2.5 hours, depending on how fresh your pinto beans are. And while the recipe calls for pinto, I’m sure you could use a navy or other white bean instead. I served these as-is with some tortilla chips, but they would also be delicious with warm, fresh corn tortillas, a simple serving of rice, or as any side to any southwestern or Tex-Mex meal you’re making.

Ranch Style Beans

adapted slightly from Homesick Texan

1 lb dried pinto beans
6 ancho chiles, stems and seeds removed
6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 onion, diced
1 15 oz. can of tomatoes
1 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp oregano
1 c of water
6 c vegetable stock
Salt and black pepper to taste

Soak the beans covered in water—either overnight or the quick soak method in which you place the beans in a pot, cover with water, bring to a boil, cover and remove from heat and let sit for one hour.

Drain the soaked beans.

In a cast-iron skillet heated up to medium high, cook the anchos on each side for a couple of minutes (or until they start to bubble and pop), turn off the heat and fill the skillet with warm water. Let them sit until soft and rehydrated, which should happen after half an hour or so.

In the pot you’ll be cooking your beans, heat up a teaspoon of canola oil and cook the onions for ten minutes on medium. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Throw the cooked onions and garlic in a blender and add the tomatoes, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, paprika, cumin, oregano, water and hydrated ancho chiles. Puree until smooth.

Add the pinto beans and beef broth to the pot and stir in the chile puree. On high, bring the pot to a boil and then cover; turn the heat down to low and simmer for two and a half to four hours, stirring occasionally.

Remove from heat and serve with rice, tortillas, or as a plain side.

Serves 6.

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