Tag Archives: red beans and rice

ANASAZI BEANS AND RICE

The Anasazi were a native people who lived in the Four Corners area of the United States – New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, and Arizona. What they called themselves is unknown, but archaeologists working in the area called them “the Anasazi” from a Navajo word which means “the ancient ones” or “the ancient enemy”. The modern Pueblo Indians, who live in villages throughout the Rio Grande Basin are thought to be the descendents of the Anasazi who abandoned their native homeland during a prolonged drought in order to be closer to a more reliable water source near the largest river in the region. The Pueblo Indians don’t like the name, Anasazi, for obvious reasons, but it has stuck.

The Anasazi began their civilization at least hundreds if not thousands of years BCE, living in pit houses, but they advanced rapidly to live in sophisticated multi-story stone apartments situated in secure areas like mesa tops and huge hollows in stone cliffs There they could pull up ladders leading to the valley floor and ride out sieges from marauding enemies.  When they finally abandoned their homelands in the 1400s, they had built amazing structures like Cliff Palace in what is now Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado, the White House in present-day Cañon de Chelly National Park in Arizona, and what may be the most sophisticated population center of all, Chaco Canyon in New Mexico, with advanced astronomical observatories, and a web of roads and trails leading in all directions, suggesting that the place may have been the commercial or religious center for the entire region.

Today, there are only a few remaining structural links to the ancient people: Taos Pueblo in northern New Mexico, the ruined Pecos Pueblo that I wrote about a while back, other ruins scattered around the Four Corners, and much more modest communities in the existing pueblos.

All of that is a long-winded introduction to Anasazi beans and how they got their name.  The traditional story is that a sealed jar of beans was discovered by archaeologists digging in the ruins of the Cliff Palace. The beans were spotted red and white, unlike any other beans the scientists had seen. To their surprise the beans sprouted, and were subsequently propagated. This story has its detractors who say that beans lose their ability to sprout after 50 years or so. They think that while the beans may have been discovered in the clay pot they could have not germinated, but  they were identical to beans that had continued to be cultivated in the region. Of course, there have been multiple interpolations of the two stores, so we really don’t know the truth. Nevertheless the name, Anasazi beans, was given to the beans and it has stuck ever since.

For a time, the beans were raised commercially only in Colorado, but now they are raised in many places, probably because of their unusual coloration and because of their distinctive, some say sweet, taste.

We bought a big supply of Anasazi beans at a farm stand, so I decided to make a variation on the Louisiana classic, red beans and rice. I know that late summer is way too hot to be making beans and rice, but I had the beans, so why not.

RECIPE

Anasazi Beans and Rice

Ingredients

  • 2 cups Anasazi beans
  • water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 closes garlic, minced
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 6 ounces ham slices, cut into ½ inch squares
  • 8 ounces link sausage, Andouille, bratwurst, or your choice, cubed
  • 1 tablespoon dried Mexican oregano, crumbled between your hands
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • salt and pepper
  • 8 cups cooked rice
  • chopped scallions for garnish
  • Louisiana hot sauce (optional)

Method

  1. Pick over the beans carefully for small stones and shriveled beans. In a large pot, cover the beans with water to at least 2 inches depth. Soak overnight.
  2. In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cover to sweat for 5 minutes until they are translucent but not browned.
  3. Stir in the garlic, chicken stock, celery, bell pepper,  ham pieces, cubed sausage, oregano, and cumin. Bring to the boil, and then cover and reduce the heat to the simmer.
  4. Cook the beans until they are tender, 2 to 4 hours.
  5. Uncover and raise the temperature to a slow boil in order to reduce the liquid until it is thickened to your taste. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
  6. Place a cup of cooked rice in each serving bowl. Ladle on the cooked beans. Serve with optional chopped scallions and hot sauce.

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RED BEANS AND RICE

Whenever our children visit us with their families, as they did this Christmas season, we try to make old favorites from their childhood. Often the food is drawn from the Southwest, but all three of them grew up in Louisiana, so Cajun and Creole dishes are high on the list of favorites. Gumbo is popular, and boiled crawfish in the spring is almost required. Bread pudding and shrimp creole are also on the list, along with red beans and rice.

For as long as anyone can remember, Monday has been laundry day in New Orleans. For as long as anyone can remember, red beans and rice has been the standard Monday supper in New Orleans because it can be started when the wash is started, stirred from time to time during the day, and finished when everyone is ready to gather around the table in the evening. We didn’t live in New Orleans, but the custom is common throughout the entire state of Louisiana.

An essential part of the dish is the meat that is used in the red beans. Traditionally a ham hock is tossed in – mostly for flavor – but also for the morsels of ham that are closest to the bone. Andouille sausage is popular as is Tasso ham. Sometimes you will see whole pork chops swimming in the stew. For this version, I chose boneless pork loin which gives good flavor and tenderness without bones. The chunks of pork fit perfectly on the fork and make a single melt-in-your-mouth bite.

Usually red beans and rice have the spiciness that is famous in Cajun and Creole cooking, but because one of our family members has severe reactions to hot spices, we make it without red pepper or chiles. Not to worry, because it is easy to add your preferred level of hotness at the table with Tabasco or Louisiana hot sauce.

 

RECIPE

Red Beans and Rice

Ingredients

  • 1 pound dry small red beans
  • water to cover the beans for cooking
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 ribs celery, chopped
  • 1 large bell pepper, seeded and membranes removed, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 pounds boneless pork loin, cut into ¾ inch cubes
  • 1 bunch green scallions including green stems, chopped
  • 2 bay leaves or ¼ teaspoon ground bay leaves
  • ¼ teaspoon ground thyme
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Louisiana hot sauce to taste
  • 1 cup long-grain rice, rinsed in a fine sieve with cold water
  • 1½ cups water

Method

  • Pour the beans into a heavy-bottomed pot and cover with water. Bring to the boil and then reduce heat to a ver slow boil. Cover and cook the beans for 1½ to 2 hours or until they are tender. Stir the bottom occasionally and add more water if needed.
  • When the beans are tender, transfer them and the cooking liquid to a large bowl Rinse and dry the pot. Then return the pot to a medium flame and add the olive oil.
  • When the olive oil is just shimmering, add the chopped onions, lower the heat and cover so that the onions “sweat” (become soft and translucent and give up some of their moisture). Do not let them brown.
  • Remove the lid, turn up the heat to medium and stir in the celery, green pepper, and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently until the vegetables are throughly wilted. Then transfer them and their juices to a plate.
  • Return the pot to the stove. Add the cubes of pork and brown them. Use more oil if needed.
  • When the meat is evenly browned, return the beans and their liquid, along with the vegetables, and bring the mixture to the boil. Add the scallions, bay leaves, and thyme.
  • Simmer the mixture, covered, for an additional hour. Adjust the seasonings with salt, pepper and, if desired, hot sauce. Remove the bay leaves
  • While the red beans are cooking, prepare the rice by combining the rice and water in a small covered pot. Bring to the boil. Stir. Cover and reduce the flame to very low. Do not remove the cover, but cook for 20 minutes. Test for doneness. The water should be completely absorbed, and the rice should be fluffy with individual grains.
  • Serve by placing a scoop of rice in the middle of a wide-mouthed bowl. Top with the red bean mixture, and serve with additional hot sauce.

Should serve 6 to 8

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