At Sichler Farm we have a soft spot for beans and not just any beans but pinto beans. Pinto beans are woven as tightly into the history and culture of New Mexico as one of our other culinary treasures, the chile pepper.
It’s hard to over-state how important pinto beans are to us. Many of us remember growing when there was always a pot of beans simmering on the stove. It’s no wonder because pinto beans are as nutritious as they are delicious. They’re incredibly high in protein, fiber, thiamine, folate, selenium, phosphorous and magnesium – a real superfood!
We may be partial, but we think that New Mexico grows the best pinto beans anywhere. Most of the state’s bean production centers in the Estancia Valley, around an hour from Albuquerque, where around three-quarters of our beans are grown. Our hands down favorite grower is Ness Farms. What they don’t know about pinto beans isn’t worth knowing!
Our advice is when you’re making beans, make more than the recipe requires. They’re so versatile and can be added to grains like spelt or barley, tossed into salads or simply served as a tasty side on their own. Everyone has their own way of cooking beans. Here’s one of our favorite ways.
12oz. uncooked pinto beans (about 2 cups)
1 red onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 New Mexico dried red chile pods
5-7oz. baby spinach (about 5 or 6 handfuls), washed and dried
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 cups diced ham or shredded ham hock
Grated parmesan cheese
Extra olive oil for drizzling
Rinse the beans, place them in a saucepan and cover generously with water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, cover and let sit for an hour. Drain, place the beans back in the saucepan and cover with water again, add the two chile pods and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a very low simmer and cook until the beans are tender but not mushy.
While the beans are cooking, heat a frying pan, add the oil and the onions and the two chile pods retrieved from the beans. Cover and cook gently until the onions are soft and translucent. Add the carrots, cook for a 3-4 minutes then add the celery and garlic and cook for a few minutes more.
Drain the beans, reserving the cooking liquid. Place the beans back in the saucepan with the sautéed vegetables and the diced ham (if using). Add enough of the cooking liquid to almost cover and cook for another 10-15 minutes. Taste and add salt if needed, bearing in mind that the ham – if you’re using it – can be salty.
Stir in the spinach at the last minute and give them a few stirs to wilt the leaves. Ladle into soup bowls and add grated parmesan cheese and an extra drizzle of olive oil, if you like. The stew is even better the next day and freezes beautifully.