Every time I eat some beans from Rancho Gordo I think that they are the best beans I’ve ever eaten. These white runner beans are grown in California from seed from southwestern France. In France they are called Tarbais beans. Steve Sando, founder of Rancho Gordo, calls them Cassoulet beans and said,

Tarbais beans were developed by generations of farmers in Tarbais, France. The original seed is a New World runner bean (Phaseolus coccineus) and most likely originated in Mexico. Out of respect for the French farmers and terroir, we’re calling the bean Cassoulet Bean. We think in order to call it Tarbais, it should be grown in southwestern France.

You can order these as well as many others at WWW.RANCHOGORDO.COM.

This silky, smooth bean can be used in many ways. These beans can be mashed and used as a spread or dip. They can be combined with some cooked greens and spooned over toast. They can be added to some flavorful vegetable stock and served over spaghetti. Or you can just eat them straight up with a piece of bread and a glass of wine.

• 1 cup of Cassoulet Beans
• 4 cups of water
• 1 cup of diced onion
• 1 cup of diced celery
• 1 cup of diced carrot
• 2-4 tbsp. minced garlic
• 1 dried bay leaf
• Salt and pepper to taste

Rinse the beans carefully checking for any foreign material. Put the beans in a large bowl and pour 4 cups of water over them. Let sit and soften for 5-8 hours. When the beans have softened, put them in a suitable pot with the water they soaked in and the bay leaf. Steve Sando thinks the soaking water should be kept rather than thrown away so as to keep as many nutrients as possible. I have followed his advice.

Sauté the onion, celery, carrot and garlic in a dry pan. I dice the vegetables quite small as I like them to be an accompaniment to the beans and to get the most flavor from them. Once the vegetables start to soften and stick to the pan, add a few spoonsful of soaking water from the beans and stir the vegetables. When the vegetables are just starting to get brown at the edges, turn off the heat and add the vegetables to the pot of beans.

Bring the pot to a boil over high heat. Once the beans and vegetables start to boil, reduce the heat to med-high and continue to boil for 3-5 minutes. Then reduce the heat to low and let the beans and vegetables simmer for 2-3 hours. You may need a flame-tamer to keep the heat low enough. Don’t let them boil again, just keep them at a low simmer.

After two hours test a bean to see if it is cooked to your liking. Cooking times vary and it seems that at my altitude, 3200 feet, beans take a little longer than called for in most recipes. Keep testing and cooking the beans until they are to your liking.

One cup of dry beans will make about two to three cups of beans plus broth.

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