As a teenager growing up in the Central Coast area of California, I spent several summers with a hoe in hand, chopping weeds out of the Pinquito (also known as Poquito) bean fields for a local couple who raised this variety of heirloom beans in Lompoc.
These beans are used in preparing one of the hallmark dishes of the Santa Maria Style Barbeque that also features grilled Tri Tip, Salsa Fresca (Pico de Gallo) and Garlic Bread. These beans are almost impossible to find outside of the Central Coast cities, but they are available by mail order. When I make a trip home, I stock up on beans for Juliette and Michelle, also, and then mail the beans to Arizona (an expensive proposition), but their pleasure in having a little piece of home in their pantries is worth the effort. This recipe will serve twelve.
A note from Michelle: My daughter Maddie dislikes chunks of fresh or canned tomatoes, so when I recently made Pinquito beans, I blended the roasted tomatoes with a small can of tomato paste, which made her very happy. Also, for best results the beans need to soak overnight, and like all soups and stews, the prepared beans improve with flavor if allowed to rest in the refrigerator for a day before gently reheating for serving.
One final tip: do not salt beans at the beginning of the cooking process because the salt can make beans tough. Always add salt after the beans are cooked through. Also of note, the basic structure of the pinquito bean remains intact even after extensive cooking. Therefore, it is downright difficult, if not nearly impossible, to overcook this particular varietal of legume.
1 pound of Pinquito/Poquito beans
about six strips of bacon
1 large head of garlic, cloves peeled and minced
1 bay leaf
1 pound of spicy Italian sausage: chicken, turkey or pork, removed from casing
bacon fat or high-heat oil, as needed
1 to 2 yellow or white onions, diced
one large pinch of red chile flakes
1 jalapeño, seeds removed and minced
3 large ribs of celery, diced
1 large carrot, peeled and diced, optional
1 large green or red bell pepper, seeds removed and diced
1 Tbsp of dried Italian seasoning
1 28-oz can of fire roasted diced tomatoes
sea salt to taste (about 1 Tbsp overall)
freshly cracked black pepper
a large Dutch oven or a crock pot
1. Transfer the beans from the bag to a colander. Run your hand through the beans and discard any rocks that you might find. Rinse the beans with water. Transfer the beans to a large Dutch oven or soup pot and generously cover the beans with water. Let the beans sit overnight.
2. The next morning drain the beans. Once again cover the beans generously with water. Bring the beans to a boil over over high heat. Once the beans are boiling, stir, and reduce the heat to maintain a simmer for about 2 hours until the beans are tender. Add two teaspoons of sea salt and stir. Lower the temperature to warm. Stir occasionally.
3. While the beans are simmering, I like to oven roast the bacon and reserve the rendered fat in a glass jar. After the bacon is cooked, I chop the strips into small bite-sized pieces and reserve. Alternatively, you may prefer to dice very cold bacon and cook it in the pan after you finish frying the sausage, which is the next step.
4. In a large skillet, over medium heat, crumble the sausage and fry until cooked, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the cooked sausage from the skillet and reserve. Depending upon what type of sausage you used, you may have a lot of fat in the pan, or very little. I typically have very little because I use sausage made with poultry. This is the time that you would add the raw bacon, if using. Stir fry the bacon until the fat renders and the bacon is cooked through, about 5 minutes. If you cooked the strips of bacon previously, add about a tablespoon of the reserved bacon fat to the pan and then add the diced onions and sprinkle with a little sea salt, ground pepper and a pinch of the chili flakes. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes until the onions are soft.
5. Once the onions are soft, add the minced garlic. Cook for a few minutes, stirring often until fragrant. Add the celery, bell pepper, jalapeño, carrot (if using) and Italian seasoning. Sprinkle the vegetables with sea salt and ground black pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, about 5 to 10 minutes.
6. Add the roasted tomatoes, or blended tomatoes (as described in the introduction) and stir to combine. Bring to a simmer.
7. Back to the beans. Remove and save the excess bean water. I simply ladle the excess bean water from the top of the pot and transfer to a Pyrex measuring cup. To the beans, add the cooked vegetables, sausage, and bacon. The beans should be covered with liquid. If the liquid is low add reserved bean water to cover.
8. Either transfer the beans to a crock pot and cook on low for four to six hours until ready to serve, or cover the pot with a tight fitting lid and place in the oven preheated to 325°F. Check the beans every couple of hours. Add more reserved bean water, if needed, to keep beans covered with liquid.
9. Before serving taste beans for seasoning. Add more salt if needed.