For picnics, barbeques or simple pick-me-ups, here are some fun ideas to bring a variety of heirloom beans into your summer fare. We usually think of beans as winter food, but in the heat of August these tasty bean treats will help chill you out with gusto.
Tia Marta here to share ways of bringing the original “fast food” into your summertime menus. Fast–that is, cook ’em first and have them “at the ready” for dressing them to suit any mood or occasion. I am a founding member of the Heirloom Bean Fan Club, always amazed by the array of bean possibilities we have in the Southwest available to us. Here in Baja Arizona we are blessed with inherited gifts of delectable, nutritious, desert-adapted beans from Native farmers, traditional Hispanic families, Black, Chinese, Anglo and other newcomers. They grow well in our backyard gardens, bedecking our tables with colorful goodness.
When the summer sun fully hits our porch about 10am, out comes our sun-oven to help us pull the heat of preparation out of the kitchen. Unfolding its reflector “wings,” I place a saucepan of pre-soaked Native tepary beans–the ones the Tohono O’odham call s-wepegi ba:wi or red tepary–covered by plenty of drinking water, nothing else necessary. About every half hour or hour (you don’t have to be too regimented if you don’t feel like it), I go out and re-adjust the orientation of the sun-oven, vertically and horizontally, to keep it as close to perpendicular to the sun as possible. The teps will be smelling good and testing done about 2pm if the sky has remained relatively bright.
Now, with my well-cooked teparies, if I’m not ready for kitchen cookery action I let them cool down then store them labeled in the frig or freezer. If I am in cook mode, I drain them, reserving the liquid for soup, and let them cool while I chop veggies. My plan–“Sonoran Caviar”–the best salad ever invented for desert rats in need of a pinch of picante. This is the culinary creation of desert survival instructor, raconteur, and one-of-a-kind character George Price, and my thanks go to him for bringing even more excitement out of teparies! Give it a try.
Sonoran Caviar recipe:
4 cups cooked brown tepary beans, drained and cooled (from less than 1 lb dry beans)
1 cup diced red onion
1 red bell pepper, diced
2 crisp Anaheim Chiles, diced, skinned, and de-seeded
1 Tbsp crushed garlic
1 Tbsp Tony Chacere’s Original Creole Seasoning (to taste)
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1 tsp black pepper ground
Mix all ingredients thoroughly in a large bowl. Chill in refrigerator for 24 hours, stirring occasionally. Stir again before serving. Buen provecho, George (Be advised that this one serves 6 hungry folks including teenage boys.)
[His Sonoran Caviar will get rave reviews at any pot luck or picnic.]
In the realm of cool summer dishes, I can always count on Heirloom Flor de Mayo Mixed Bean Salad (my namesake!). When I was in college, Mother sent me a little book by Barbara Goodfellow, Make it Now Bake it Later from the ’60s. It has inspired my hostessing ever since, especially my adaptation for this sweet recipe which delights in everything from your garden:
Heirloom Flor de Mayo Mixed Bean Salad Recipe:
(Fool-proof for picnics and barbeques–and it keeps well for days in the frig)
1 cup (or more) cooked heirloom Flor de Mayo beans for bright color (or another SW heirloom such as Ojo de Cabra, Rio Zape, Bolita, Cannellini–all taste wonderful in this marinated salad)
1 cup cooked green beans or snap beans from your garden (or organic canned)
1 cup cooked garbanzo beans (organic canned garbanzos/chickpeas) from your winter garden
1 cup cooked GMO-free corn kernels (off the cob or canned)
1/2 cup chopped green pepper
1 Tbsp chopped shallots, chives, sweet onion, or I’itoi’s onion from the garden
1/2 cup organic sugar or agave nectar
1 cup organic cider vinegar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp sea salt
Drain cooked beans. In mixing bowl dissolve sweetener and spices in liquid. Add beans, chopped green pepper and onion, then mix. Let stand in refrigerator overnight, mix again. When serving, reserve liquid for other marinades. Serves 6 generously.
Another fun way to get your complex carbs and vegetable protein is to make heirloom bean dips– then to get fancier using the dip, the next step is Easy Heirloom Bean Roll-ups. For the fastest, most crowd-pleasing bean-spread, I use either Mortgage Lifter beans or Anasazi beans–both great. Mortgage Lifter is a giant white runner bean, also known as Aztec white runner or Bordal. Grown in your garden, it will vine over itself and its neighbor plants with big white flowers that attract hummingbirds.
Easy Heirloom Bean Roll-up Appetizers Recipe:
2 cups cooked Mortgage Lifter beans, or purple & white Anasazi beans
4 oz low-fat cream cheese (1/2 block of neuchatel)
1 Tbsp Red Devil hot sauce
1 tsp ground cumin seed
pinches of sea salt, to taste
3 or 4 medium whole wheat tortillas
Drain cooked beans (reserving liquid if you need to make a thinner texture after mashing). Mash beans and cream cheese together with pastry cutter or bean masher. Mash in all other ingredients. [You can sometimes find traditional Tarahumara madrone-wood bean mashers at NativeSeeds/SEARCH or at Flor de Mayo.] At this point you have the best dip ever, and also the filling for instant burritos ready to feed to drop-in visitors. Read on for further Roll-up directions…..
To finish these festive heirloom bean appetizers…spread the bean mixture onto 3/4 of one tortilla leaving a chord of the circle uncovered. You will see why when you roll it up. Begin rolling the tortilla tightly from the bean-covered edge and continue to roll snugly. The bean spread will squeeze toward the unrolled edge, filling it. The rolled tortilla will be held together by the bean spread. Repeat with remaining tortillas and dip.
Place tortilla rolls on wax paper and chill in freezer or frig long enough to become firm for cutting. Place chilled rolled tortillas on cutting board one at a time. Slice in 1/2-inch rounds and place the disc-shaped spirals on a serving tray. Chill until served. Bedeck each Heirloom Bean Roll-up with a sprinkle of paprika or a cilantro leaf. Each tortilla should produce about 6-8 roll-ups. (With any leftover bean mixture, enjoy it as dip or in a burrito.) These appetizers are a tasty celebration–and a tacit bow to Southwestern farming traditions.
By the way, you can find all of the wonderful Southwest heirloom beans to use in these recipes either at the NativeSeeds/SEARCH store, 3061 N Campbell Ave, Tucson, or at our Flor de Mayo booth at the charming St Phillips farmers market on Sundays in the shade of spreading sycamores and mesquites.
For the experienced or the novice desert gardener, now is the time to do the last planting in your monsoon garden. One of my Tohono O’odham mentors taught me that the second week in August is really the last opportunity to put bean, corn, melon, or squash seed in the ground. Even better to give your garden a jump-start by planting starts! Right now at the NativeSeeds/SEARCH store you will find a variety of healthy seedlings hungry to be in the soil–and on sale. Come give them a future–and a delectable future for your palette in the months to come….
Happy gardening–and healthy eating to you from Tia Marta!