A couple of years ago when we were visiting this beautiful part of the world, one of the locals described the native diet as mostly “rice and beans”– “and” he went on to say, “when we get tired of rice and beans we eat beans and rice.”
A well-rehearsed line no doubt but one that made us all laugh. It also got me thinking about the multitude of ways this humble and satisfying food gets reinvented to make it a little different each time.
Sometimes inspiration for these variations strikes in the Cordillera de Talamanca but sometimes it strikes when you’re running through your local Nob Hill on a lunchless stomach at 2:30 PM (nothing quite like the smell of the hot lunch bar in those moments).
I’m so glad I stopped and sampled. What struck me most about these beans — beyond their warm, aromatic and buttery blissful selves, was that they were spiced just right – I’ve had chipotle dishes that were over the top hot and ultimately unappealing, this one was spot on. Enough kick to keep things interesting without the tongue singe. I was excited to experiment and create my own version at home.
As for the Peruvian (Peruano) beans, this was my first introduction. Popularized in Mexico, these mild tasting and light cream colored beans are said to originate from the Andes Mountains in Peru. They are best known for their creamy texture which is quite lovely but the bean itself (which goes by many names including: canary, azufrado, mayocoba and Mexican yellow) can be difficult to find – you might have to go to the Source.
I hope you enjoy this pot of warmth (served with rice of course). If fall hasn’t found you yet my suspicion is it will and when it does, you’ll be happy to have this cozy little number up your sleeve.
- For the Beans:
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, (crushed, salted and chopped)
- 1 tsp smoked paprika powder
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- 10 or so baby carrots, thin sliced (or any carrots you have on hand)
- 1 sweet bell pepper, diced (I used red)
- 4 cups cooked peruvian beans (from 1 rounded cup dry)
- 2 cups veg stock (or stock of choice)
- ½ cup water
- 3 Tbsp tomato paste
- 2 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, chopped (seeds and all!) + 3 tsp reserved adobo sauce
- 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
- 1 Tbsp honey (or sweetener of choice)
For the Tapioca (or Cornstarch) Slurry:
- Dissolve 1 round Tbsp tapioca (or cornstarch) into equal parts water and whisk together to fully blend.
- Fresh cilantro, sliced avocado, dollop plain yogurt, lime wedges, as desired. Serve accompanied by salad of choice or, as pictured here, brown basmati.
- Prepare your dry Peruvian beans by soaking them overnight (simply cover in a pot with cool water) and drain/rinse in the morning. Pre-soaking can help ease digestive distress in those susceptible.
- Transfer the drained beans to a cooking pot on stove and cover with generous amount of water - bring the beans to a boil and then reduce to a gentle simmer for the duration (you may need to add water as the beans cook). Allow beans to simmer until desired texture is achieved (I like them tender but still slightly firm) about 45 mins - 1 hour. Rinse cooked beans and set aside.
- In a large skillet set over low-medium heat, sauté onion/garlic for about 4 minutes - add carrots, bell pepper and continue to sauté for another minute or two.
- Sprinkle mixture with paprika and cumin and mix in chopped chipotle peppers.
- Add veg stock, water, tomato paste, reserved adobo sauce, vinegar and honey. Stirring to combine. Finally, add cooked Peruvian beans stirring gently to integrate.
- Simmer ingredients for about 10-15 mins to reduce liquid base (stirring occasionally).
- To the remaining base (there should still be a generous amount after reduction), add the tapioca (or cornstarch) slurry and simmer for another 3 minutes just long enough to allow sauce to thicken slightly. The way I do it is to move some of the beans aside with a spoon and then add the slurry directly into the exposed liquid stirring/whisking vigorously before the final simmer.
Can I skip the slurry? I think you'll find that without the slurry, the beans will be sitting in a pot of soup. Slurries are really simple to whip-up (literally 1 or 2 tbsp of powder to equal parts water whisked together) and I can't say enough about how effective and practical this little thickening agent is! You can use it anytime you need to thicken up a sauce that's a little more dilute than you would have liked (slow cooker meals, gravies, etc). It's a great culinary tool to have at your disposal.
How Spicy is this recipe? Spice is in the tongue of the beholder. From my perspective, the dish has a nice smoky flavor but a very tolerable heat level (relatively mild) my husband has a low threshold for spicy meals and found this one just right -- if you know that you enjoy/tolerate heat, by all means add another chopped chipotle pepper (or additional adobo sauce).