Pinto beans: Very economical and an awesome source of protein and fiber. There is a reason beans and rice are a staple food in so many countries. Together they provide a complete balance of needed proteins. Choose brown rice (also cheap and delicious), and you’re even better off. I lean towards picking foods for taste, with nutrition coming in second. It’s not that I don’t care, I just don’t really over-think that aspect. I prefer to balance and moderate so I can still enjoy what I cook. Which makes beans practically guilt-free food.
Pinto beans are so simple to make. Just make sure you give yourself a little time to prepare and soak. These don’t require an over-night time frame, just 3 1/2 to 4 hours.
So versatile in ways to prepare, these particular beans are great. Use them as a side for Mexican dishes, or smoked BBQ meats. The flavor of the beans is not overshadowed, only enhanced by the addition of smoked ham and the minimal seasonings. Hit with a little bit of lime juice and cilantro right before serving if you like.
Their subtle taste also makes them perfect as an addition to any burrito in place of refried beans.
Bonus: they freeze well.
Smoky Pinto Beans
makes 5–6 cups of beans
1 pound dry pinto beans
8 cups water
1/2 large onion-chopped
1 (14 1/2 oz.) can reduced sodium chicken broth
1 can water (assuming, of course, that you are using the chicken broth can…)
2 cloves of garlic-sliced, chopped, whatever…
4–6 oz. thick-cut bacon, ham hock, salt pork, or leftover ham–my favorite is double smoked, thick-cut bacon
1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Sort through dry pinto beans to remove any rocks and such. Put into a large pot and cover with 8 cups water. There should be a couple on inches covering the beans. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and boil for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat, cover, and let sit for 1 hour.
Drain and rinse.
Put back into your large pot and add: whatever ham you’ve decided to use, the chopped onion, the chicken broth and can of water, and the garlic.
Simmer on medium-low heat with a tilted lid for 2–2 1/2 hours, or until tender. Check the liquid often and add up to another 1/2 can water if needed.
When beans are as soft as you would like, take them off the heat and salt and pepper to taste. Then add the remaining seasonings.
Stir and smash beans against the side of the pot until they are the consistancy you want. I like to leave most of them whole, just smashing enough to give it a thicker base.