Beanie baby

 

A bag of Yellow Indian Woman Beans inspires a midsummer soup.

A bag of Yellow Indian Woman Beans inspires a midsummer soup.

Soup in July? Something cool and civilized, maybe, like gazpacho or cucumber. But when I eyed a bag of heritage Indian Woman Beans the other day, something thick, hearty, and spicy came to mind. And since I’m on the beach on Southern California, where the nippy June gloom has followed us into July, I went with it. 

I’d picked up a 12-ounce bag of the dried beans on sale at World Market, where they carry heritage beans by Great Valley, for less than $3. Rancho Gordo also sells the beans for $4.95 per pound. Yes, that’s a lot for dried beans, but you can expect to pay a premium for anything with the world “heirloom” or “heritage” in the name. I’d never seen Yellow Indian Woman beans before but was intrigued by their petite size and lovely light brown (OK, yellowish) hue. Info on the label noted that the beans, which have a creamy texture when cooked and flavor similar to black beans or pinto beans, were brought to America by Swedish immigrants in the 19th century. Other sources I checked said the same thing, so either we’re all just reading the same Wikipedia entry or it’s true. Origins of the bean’s politically incorrect  name are murkier.

So I found myself with a little time on my hands, a cool day, and a hankering for soup. The result is this recipe, which got two thumbs up from my mate, so it’s a keeper.

Yellow Indian Woman Bean Soup

Using a pressure cooker means the soup comes together in a hurry, and you can use the cooker to “quick soak” the beans, as I did in step 1. Adding a whole jalapeno infuses it with pleasant heat. If you can’t find Yellow Indian Woman beans, substitute black beans. I used unsalted homemade chicken stock, but you could use store-bought low-sodium chicken broth and adjust the amount of added salt to taste.

1 (12-ounce) bag dried Yellow Indian Woman beans

1 (4-ounce) link Mexican chorizo

1 cup finely chopped onion

2 minced garlic cloves

4 cups unsalted chicken stock

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1 jalapeno chile pepper

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

Additional cilantro, for garnish

 

Yellow Indian Woman Soup

Yellow Indian Woman Soup

1. Sort through the beans, discarding any split beans. Place beans in a 6-quart pressure cooker; add water to cover by 2 inches. Lock lid in place, and bring to high pressure over high heat. Reduce heat, and cook 2 minutes. Release pressure using automatic pressure release OR carefully transfer cooker to sink and run cool water over rim until pressure drops. Remove lid, tilting lid away from you to allow steam to escape. Drain beans.

 

2. Return cooker to stove. Remove chorizo from casing; add chorizo to cooker over medium heat. Cook 5 minutes, or until chorizo renders its fat, using a spoon to crumble chorizo. Add onion, and cook 3 minutes. Add garlic, and cook 30 seconds or until fragrant. Add drained beans, chicken stock, cumin, and oregano. Use a sharp knife to cut a slit in the jalapeno; add to cooker. Lock lid in place, and bring to high pressure over high heat. Reduce heat, and cook 20 minutes or until beans are tender. Release pressure using automatic pressure release OR carefully transfer cooker to sink and run cool water over rim until pressure drops. Remove lid, tilting lid away from you to allow steam to escape. Stir in salt and pepper. Discard jalapeno. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup to desired texture (or transfer soup in batches to a food processor or blender). Stir in 2 tablespoons cilantro; cook, uncovered, 5 minutes. Serve garnished with additional cilantro. Yield: 6 servings.

307 calories; 7 g total fat (2 g sat); 19 g protein; 44 g carbohydrates; 9 g fiber; 14 mg cholesterol; 551 mg sodium

Saturday starters

dreamstimefree_1149421It’s all about calories

Physicians and nutritionists have been saying this for years: To lose weight, you need to consume fewer calories than you expend. That’s a simple equation, but many of us still seek a magic weight-loss bullet. You know, the special diet that finally unlocks the key to shedding all those excess pounds. So what works best? High fat/low carb/high protein? High protein/low fat/low carb? High carb/low fat/some protein? A new study published in the latest issue of the New England Journal of Medicine compared four different weight-loss diets over a two-year period and found that what really matters is: consuming fewer calories, regardless of diet. So if you want to drop a few pounds, just eat less and move more.

Grow your own

lettucecloseupAs the terrific blog RecessionWire notes, when times get tough, people start planting. During the Great Depression, anyone with some spare dirt grew something; that was followed by the victory gardens of World War II. These lean days are no different, and the National Gardening Association predicts the number of households growing vegetables will sprout 40% this year. This can range from a few containers of herbs to full vegetable gardens. To help you get started, the editors at FineGardening.com have just launched Vegetable Gardener, a cool site devoted to growing and cooking with fruits and vegetables. Sunset.com is another good source of info. Finally, for glorious inspiration, check out Jeanne Kelley’s book Blue Eggs and Yellow Tomatoes: Recipes from a Modern Kitchen Garden, in which she shares delicious recipes inspired by her own home garden. Think of it as uber-local food.

duo10qt_large_horizontal_productTried it, loved it

Lately, I’ve been experimenting with pressure cookers, which cook food in less than half the time of conventional methods. You may remember those retro gadgets from your grandma’s kitchen–they rattled menacingly on the stovetop while pressure built up in the pot. They even exploded on occasion. Hmmm, why bother with them now? Today’s models are safe, sturdy, and easy to use. I recently picked up a 6-quart, stainless-steel Fagor Duo pressure cooker on Amazon for $80 (it typically retails for $120). It’s a solid piece of cookware–you can saute and sear in it before adding other ingredients and starting the pressure. It’s also simple to handle, quiet, and speedy. We enjoyed homemade split pea soup in about 20 minutes, start to finish. I also like to cook dried beans, but hate the long soaking and simmering time. The pressure cooker will speed that process up, too, enabling me to use cheap dried beans instead of pricier, sodium-packed canned legumes.