Skip to main content
Updated:
Original:

Native Cooking

The three sisters; corn, beans and squash. Everyone remembers the corn and
the squash so the poor, lowly bean needs a little attention now and again.
There are negative statements about the bean - "aw, you're full of beans"
and "I don't give a hill of beans what you do" and "spilling the beans"
just to mention a couple. Some places give the bean its due. For example,
the state legislature of New Mexico declared the pinto bean the number one
vegetable in that state. It shares that honor with the beloved chili
pepper.

It's time for beans to get their due - after all they are little factories
of complex protection power. Low in fat, high in protein and fiber and
contains a bunch of vitamins and minerals that have shown promise as cancer
fighters. Beans come in so many varieties as canned and dried food you
could probably eat them every day for a month and not repeat a one.

I got curious about my own pantry stock and counted over 10 different types
of canned and dried beans. Mom always said if you have a can of beans in
the house, you have food. She used to put a spoonful of molasses or brown
sugar in when heating canned beans. We mustn't forget that green beans are
part of this homage. The green and Lima varieties seem to freeze well, but
not other types for some reason.

Refried Beans

In some places, refried beans are as important side dish as mashed
potatoes. These go well with spicy foods. If the food is really spicy, it
is handy to have sour cream and refried beans nearby to neutralize and
fiery upstarts.

1 pound dry pinto beans

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons canola oil

1 teaspoon salt, more if needed

Soak the beans overnight in cold water, drain in the morning. Put 4 to 6
cups of water in a heavy pan, add the soaked beans and bring all to a boil.
Cover and turn down the heat; simmer for two hours until the beans are
tender enough to mash. Do not drain. Add the canola oil and garlic and mash
beans. Cook all uncovered for 10 minutes until thick, stirring frequently.

White Bean Try Bread

1 can white beans (Pinto, or other)

1 tablespoon baking power

1 cup flour

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

Oil or lard for frying in cast iron or heavy pan

Mash up the beans in a large bowl. Add the flour, baking powder, salt and
pepper and enough water (try 1/2 cup) to make a batter. Drop by large
tablespoons into hot oil or fat and flatten a bit with a spatula. Brown on
both sides, remove and drain on paper towels.

I have tried this with a bit of chopped onion one time. Another time, try
chili powder and chopped jalapenos. Experiment with your own additions for
variety like Pinto beans, cheese, hot sauce ...

Refried Bean Dip

1 15-ounce can refried beans

1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

1 4.5-ounce can chopped green chilies

1/2 cup chopped green onions, tops too

2 or more tablespoons hot taco sauce

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Combine all and put into a baking dish. Cover
and bake for 20 - 30 minutes or until cheese is melted. Serve with tortilla
chips.

Extraordinary Slow-Cooked Beans

6 slices of bacon, cooked

2 onions, chopped

1 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup cider vinegar

1/3 cup ketchup

1 16-ounce can each: Cut green beans, butter beans, white great northern
beans and Lima beans

Using a saute pan, mix together the onions, brown sugar, dry mustard, salt,
vinegar and ketchup. Simmer for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, drain all the
beans (do not rinse) and put them in a crock-pot on low. Crumble the bacon
on the beans and pour in the onion mixture. Stir lightly to blend. Cover
and cook on medium or high for 2 hours. Check midway through cooking and
stir.

Notes & Tips:

I used to think icicles hanging from the roof were pretty. Not. They are a
signal that you are losing heat. Heat rises, so try to get your attic
insulated.

Use drapes or curtains that close in the winter months, especially during
the night will also help keep heat in.

Foil or a reflective shield between your radiator and the wall will help,
too. Instead of the wall absorbing the heat, it will reflect it back into
the room to circulate.

Being thankful is the finest attribute of man because it isn't what you
have in your pocket that makes you thankful, its what you have in your
heart.

"History tells us that war is better at abolishing nations than nations are
at abolishing war."

I want to thank all of you who have sent in suggestions and ideas to
NativeCooking@aol.com. I am always learning things. Please let me know what
YOU want to see for recipes in this column.

Dale Carson is the author of three books, "New Native American Cooking,"
(temporarily out of print) "Native New England Cooking" and "A Dreamcatcher
Book."

For ordering information write to Dale Carson, P.O. Box 13, Madison, CT
06443 or e-mail NativeCooking@aol.com.