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Anasazi Beans

Most popular of the modern boutique beans, the Anasazi bean is also called the Aztec bean, Cave bean, New Mexico appaloosa and sometimes Jacob's Cattle. It is a 1,500 year old variety: the most popular story behind the modern origin of the New Mexico Cave Bean is unusual. As it goes, in the 1980's a member of an archeological team from UCLA was looking for remains of Pygmy elephants that roamed the earth thousands of years ago in the area now known as New Mexico and came upon these beans. The beans were in a clay pot sealed with pine tar and were determined by radio carbon dating to be over 1,500 years old, yet some still germinated! The beans were simply called "New Mexico Cave Beans" after the discovery of the half dozen or so beans found in a cave once inhabited by Native American peoples. Of course, the usual germmination period for stored beans being at most 50 years, the folks who say they have been grown continuously in the Utah - New Mexico area could be right, too.

No one knows what the missing tribe actually called themselves - anasazi is a Navajo word that means "ancient ones" or ancient enemies. And the origins of this bean are also mysterious. Years later, after the beans were grown by a few different heirloom growers, some of these very same New Mexico Cave Beans were renamed and trademarked as Anasazi Beans by Adobe Mills, a privately owned company.

This attractive purple-red and white bean cooks in about 2/3 the time of an ordinary pinto bean to a creamy even pink. It has a sweet mild full flavor and a mealy texture, perfect for any Mexican, Latin American or Native American dish. Compared to other beans, it contains only 25% of the specific complex carbohydrates sometimes responsible for gastric distress associated with dry beans- so, less gas.

Here is a delightful recipe. The sauce features pasilla chile - In its fresh form, this chile is called a chilaca and is generally 6 to 8 inches long. The rich-flavored, mild to medium-hot pasilla is a blackish-brown color, which lends itself to another name: chile negro. This chile is sold whole, dried, and powdered and is particularly good for use in sauces.

Cassoulita: Braised Beans

You can make a great dish by taking beans just cooked barely tender, and braising or oven-baking them with flavorings and a small amount of vegetables. Cassoulita is a Mexican-influenced vegetarian casserole of native corn, Anasazi beans and fresh vegetables braised in a chilaca or pasilla sauce, baked with white cheese.

Step one, cook the beans:
1 pound dried Anasazi beans (Cannellini, black bean, or pinto, soaked as described in the
bean faqs and drained)
1 medium onion, halved and stuck with 4 whole cloves
1 carrot, chunked up
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
5 large cloves garlic, halved

Step two, braise the beans:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup minced celery
1 cup minced carrot
1 cup minced onion
1 cup fresh corn kernels (about 2 ears)
1/4 cup minced parsley
1/4 cup minced cilantro
1 recipe pasilla chili sauce below
2 1/2 cup grated fresh white cheese (queso quesadilla) or Monterey Jack Cheese
1 cup sour cream or plain yogurt (garnish)
1 Avocado, peeled, seeded, sliced (garnish)
1/4 cup fresh cilantro sprigs (garnish)

Prepare the beans and the pasilla sauce below and set aside- can be done ahead and frozen. When you are ready to make the dish, saute the chopped vegetables and parsley in oil over medium high to golden, stir in chili sauce, cook for another few minutes. Stir and cook at a lively bubble about 4 minutes, or until thick. Gently stir in beans, removing the big chunks of onion with the whole cloves. Add bean liquid if needed to moisten and simmer about 15 minutes to blend flavors. Taste for seasoning.

Step three, bake the beans

Pour into a large shallow baking dish, cover with the shredded cheese, and stir in lightly. Bake 1 hour.
Before serving, garnish the dish with sour cream, avocado and fresh chopped

Pasilla Braising Sauce

2 tb Peanut oil
1 2-oz. package dried pasilla Chiles, stemmed, seeded, torn into 1-inch pieces
1/2 c whole blanched almonds, chopped
4 c vegetable broth
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
4 plum tomatoes, cored, seeded, quartered
1/2 Onion, quartered
4 Cloves garlic, peeled
2 tablespoons firmly packed golden brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt and pepper to taste

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in large pot over high heat. Add chiles and almonds. Saute until chiles darken and almonds are golden, about 2 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer chilies and almonds to bowl.
Toast cumin seeds in heavy small skillet over medium-low heat until aromatic, about 1 minute. Mince or blenderize cumin seeds.
Add cumin, chili mixture, tomatoes, quartered onion, garlic, sugar and salt to stock. Simmer until all ingredients are very soft, about 45 minutes.
Working in batches, puree stock mixture in blender. Return to pot. Boil until reduced to 3 cups, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. (Can be made 1 day ahead and refrigerated, or can be frozen.)

Crockpot freezer refried beans have moved to the Once A Month Cooking Pages.