I've been spending a lot of time working instead of cooking, lately, and have been doing both (as you can see) far more often than I've been writing about what I've been cooking. I know! What foolishness. What I have been cooking all this time has frequently and prominently featured beans. Lovely, gorgeous Rancho Gordo beans, decadently shipped to me from two-thirds of the way across the country. If you read other food blogs, you've probably already read someone else enthusing about these beans. Now here I am to do more of the same. It turns out that there are many advantages to making beautiful fresh dried heirloom beans.
Of course they are delicious, and it's neat to become attuned to the differences among such a host of different varieties. Because they're fresh, they cook consistently (so you don't have some beans turning mushy while others remain hard). They turn out plump and attractive and whole instead of broken and sad. But there's also an interesting psychological advantage, for me, at least: the fact that the beans are an ingredient that I went to some trouble to get, and that I know were chosen and harvested with real enthusiasm, means that it feels like a treat instead of laziness to put them at the center of a meal.
So that's what I've been doing. I just cooked up the last of our runner cannellini, which sadly are also the last to be had from Rancho Gordo by mail until new supplies appear, presumably after the harvest and drying are done, but you can still get them from Purcell Mountain Farms and Seed Savers--a very cool institution, by the way--and no doubt other places, too. (I've never ordered beans from either of these places; does anyone reading this have experience with their beans?) Runner cannellini are a magnificently gigantic and velvety white bean. Today they cooked perfectly in just one hour flat, after an overnight soak. Then I did this with them, which is exactly what I did with the last batch, because it is very very good. Recommended.
A few of my favorite varieties are sold out for the season (no doubt helped out the door by the publication of Steve Sando's new cookbook). Not yet gone is my very favorite, though, the Eye of the Goat, which is dense and flavorful, and holds its shape beautifully despite having a relatively delicate skin. I love to eat them just in a bowl, topped with chopped red onions, a little cheese, a sliced avocado, a drizzle of oil and a squeeze of lime.