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The Rancho Gordo Blog

Testing Techniques for Refried Beans

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Testing Techniques for Refried Beans

I sometimes believe my love of beans came from the can of refried beans my family would use for tostada nights in the late 1960s and 1970s. I loved the power of creating my own tostada, which at that point would not have had a hint of a fresh vegetable but oddly loaded with hot sauce. It was all good but it was the refried beans that made me a lifelong fan of beans.  I don't think there is a lot of debate about the best way to refry beans. White onion is wilted in freshly rendered lard and then...

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Remembering Our Days at the Farmers Markets

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Remembering Our Days at the Farmers Markets

A recent post on our Instagram account has lead me down a nostalgic path. I've always been fortunate but looking back over the years, I had to work really hard to get so lucky!  (with the great Annie Sommerville from Greens Restaurant) People forget. I forget! In the early days, I sold the beans almost exclusively at farmers markets. I couldn't get into the Napa market (which was idiotic but a tale best saved for another time), so I did the Yountville, Calistoga, and St Helena markets in Napa. I quickly expaned to the Grand Lake market in Oakland and...

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Gordo-Con: The Heirloom Bean Encuentro at Alta Baja

On the Road steve sando

Gordo-Con: The Heirloom Bean Encuentro at Alta Baja

Delilah Snell, the genius behind Alta Baja Market, had the idea to celebrate our heirloom beans and throw a real party. Years earlier, we had a nice dinner but this time we wanted to make some noise. COVID is still with us but it's arguably under better control and it's just been too long for some of us. Well, me, in particular. I wanted to have a party!  Delilah had thought of everything so early October, I flew in, checked in and then was whisked off to Carlos Salgado's Taco Maria in Costa Mesa. I've known Carlos casually since the last...

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The Sorana Bean. From Tuscany, With Love

Ingredient Spotlight Misc On the Road

The Sorana Bean. From Tuscany, With Love

Last autumn I was in Italy for the first time in way too long. This was the funny time when we all thought this covid thing was waning and we were heading back to normal. Weren't we cute? Regular followers of Rancho Gordo know of our love and admiration for the amazing Judy Witts Francini. She is a powerhouse of knowledge about the Italian kitchen and nothing makes her happier than sharing her secrets. She has many. Judy arranged for me to meet with some members of the cooperative that is keeping the Sorana bean production going. Unable to meet...

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Happy Harvest: Frijolon Gris

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Happy Harvest: Frijolon Gris

It has been a long time since I played in the garden. I have not been a good steward of my land and as we got busier and busier over the holiday season, I left my precious Oaxacan runner beans to fend for themselves. We experienced a very wet season, followed by several nights with freezing temperatures and the mornings have been foggy. You would have thought my forgotten bean crop would be a goner, but you'd be wrong. Mid-February and this is my harvest. I looked and I saw a few funky pods. When I opened them, the beans...

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Jesús Helguera, Our Calendar Artist

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Jesús Helguera, Our Calendar Artist

One of the first things I did when I started Rancho Gordo was to offer free calendars every year featuring almost exclusively the art of Jesús Helguera. I love the idealized, often policially incorrect, images of post-revolutionary Mexico. There are some real problems but there's a clear sense of Helguera's patriotism, and loads of campy good fun. I asked Karla from our customer service department to do some research on Helguera so we all could know a little more about him. She used an uncredited book I have, Jesus Helguera (1989, Galas de Mexico) for much of the information. -...

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Fennel and Thyme Roasted Beans

In the garden

Fennel and Thyme Roasted Beans

This is a fine recipe from Thomasina Meyers in The Guardian. I asked the staff if they would make it and it was as good as it sounds, although calling it a cassoulet seems like a push. Our Creative Director, Rachel Padilla, ended up being the chef. I love fennel but I tend to overcook it and caramalize it. Here, it's fully cooked and fresh-tasting with just the hint of anise. I would go easier on the breadcrumbs and keep the focus on the beans and the fennel. Rachel used our Alubia Blanca but Cassoulet, Royal Coronas, Ayocote Blanco, or...

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A Grated Salad

In the garden

A Grated Salad

I love salad but the act of making one on a busy night is often not a pleasure for me. This will sound insane but the lettuce bugs me the most. I refuse to buy it bagged and cleaning it isn't that hard but it's a step that can lead me to abandon the salad if the stars aren't aligned. I have several tricks up my sleeve and one is my box grater. I had a large jicama and after peeling it, I grated it and made a salad with orange pieces, red onion, our Oregano Indio, and cilantro. I...

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A Last Meal al fresco Before the Rains: Fish & Shrimp with Alubia Blanca

In the garden

Here in Napa the rains are late. We're nervous but we hear there's a big storm coming in. Typically, it's sunny and clear, and hard to imagine today. I took advantage of one last chance to social distance and break bread with my neighbor, Connie. The inspiration for this came from the book on Tuscan coastal cooking, Acquacotta, by Emiko Davies (Hardie Grant, 2017). The original recipe calls for clams and no fish, but I had fresh prawns and halibut on hand. I was also cooking beans and well, you know, beans. Any of our white beans will work, except...

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This Is Why We Can't Relax

In the garden

I just received this press release from No More Deaths. We add a 5% "tariff" to all our imports from the Rancho Gordo-Xoxoc Project and then match this as a donation, and then some. I can not believe that humanitarian aid has turned into a political issue, but here we are and this is how the government chooses to spend our tax dollars. - Steve SandoFOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Military Style Raid: Border Patrol detains 30+ people receiving care at humanitarian aid stationAgents descended upon the camp with an armored vehicle, ATVs, dozens of trucks, chasing and detaining people who had...

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I Apologize

In the garden

This will be too little, too late, but my inability to address this doesn't make it any less important. I've been working on this post in my mind for two years. I struggled with a justification for publishing a blog on racism. I am unqualified, but I do have to let the world know that I stand with those protesting the racism that led to the death of George Floyd. I have no confidence that his murderers will be held accountable in the same way he would be if the roles were reversed. I was one of those happy liberals...

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Emily Nunn on Beans and Health

In the kitchen Misc Vegetarian>Vegan

Emily Nunn is one of my favorite writers. Her Comfort Food Diaries is a classic and her Twitter feed is essential reading. I asked her what she's thinking about beans and health for the new year. - Steve According to the food world, beans are having “a moment.” Well, pardon us, but beans—which are the world’s second most important food source, after grains/grasses— have been a mainstay in the Americas for centuries (and the Old World began cultivating and eating them about 10,000 years ago). There’s a very good reason for their longevity, too. Beans make the human body happy—and...

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