Beans, corn and chiles. These are pillars of the Mexican kitchen and this sampler set gets you started with all three. Three very different kinds of beans that all would feel at home in a Mexican kitchen, plus dried hominy (nixtamal), Mexican oregano, canela and powdered chile.
Ayocote Morado beans: Ayocote Morado are a cousin to the more famous Scarlet Runner and can be used anyplace a runner bean is called for. These beans are big and creamy but the pot liquor (or "caldo") is thin and flavorful, almost like a bouillon. They cook up tan in color, so save a few of them to remember their lovely lilac coloring when raw!
Pinto beans: The poor pinto doesn't get the respect it deserves. With all of its glamorous cousins hanging around, it's hard to grab a little of the spotlight, until someone wisely cooks them up. If you've been served supermarket pintos all your life, you are in for a pleasant surprise. Pintos can be great! Especially when they're as fresh as ours.
Santa Maria Pinquito beans: A very small, chili-type bean that is loaded with California history. Most of us thought the Santa Maria "Pinks" were brought in with the migrant citrus workers of the 1950s (who also introduced us to the tri-tip) but now there's some thought that it was a crop during the Mission era. Whatever its origins, it's delicious and meaty and the perfect match for any barbecue, chili or even salad.
New Mexican Chile Powder: Fresh and delicious ground New Mexican chiles make all the difference when making chili con carne or posole. From a small grower in New Mexico.
Mexican Oregano: A delicious and essential part of the Mexican pantry. Similar to European Oregano, but less sweet and with a slight citrus twist. There are many plants known as "oregano" in Mexico but this is the most common (Lippia graveolens).
Canela (Soft Cinnamon): From the Latin Cinnamomum verum, our Sri Lankan style cinnamon is soft and easily grated. Unlike the more common Cassia aromaticum, canela is often referred to as "true cinnamon". Its bark is softer and the flavor is less astringent than common commercial cinnamon.
Prepared Hominy (Posole): After a gentle simmer, dried hominy opens up like a delicious flower and is ready to use in soups, stews and the classic southwestern and Mexican dish, Pozole (or Posole). The corn is prepared by removing the skins after soaking them in the mineral lime (cal), changing the flavor (for the better) and releasing the niacin, making this slightly processed grain healthier than simple dried corn or cornmeal.