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April 2010

March 2010

Snowcap Beans


Finally, after several attempts, we have a good crop of the rather famous Snowcap bean. Not a lot, but enough to save some seed and offer the extra here. They're one of the prettiest beans of all, I must say!


They look like cranberry beans dipped in white chocolate! They're big and bold and when cooked, taste not unlike potatoes, but the texture is silky smooth. Odd and unusual!


Snowcaps at the Rancho Gordo site.

All of the pots are from BRAM Cookware in Sonoma, by the by.

Bean Love at the Farmers Market

On Saturday, CUESA celebrated their bean love with demos by my beloved Lorna Sass and my new hero, Dominque Crenn of Luce.


I was supposed to help but I spent most of the day (O.K.: ALL DAY) visiting all my old buddies, vendors and customers. I know people give the market a lot of grief (too many strollers, too many tourists) but when the weather is good and it's before 11 a.m., it's really a magical place.


I was bombarded by questions about rumors of a Rancho Gordo store and all I can say at this point is that they are just rumors.


The food at the demos was of course great and well-run by Sara Henkin and company. I'm very proud to be part of the CUESA machine!

Carne de Res con Col from Diana Kennedy

This is a simple dish from Diana Kennedy's The Essential Cuisines of Mexico. I'd never made the dish before but the book will go with me to my desert island. The only big difference is I added one cup of cooked Moro beans and I think you should, too! 


Carne de Res con Col
(Ground Beef with Cabbage)
From Chiapas

3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
6 peppercorns
salt to taste
1 lb ground sirloin with a little fat
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup finely chopped white onion
1 jalapeño chile, finely chopped
6 oz tomatoes, finely chopped
4 cups finely shredded cabbage
1 cup cooked Moro beans
2/3 cups water
1/2 cup firmly packed, roughly chopped cilantro

Crush the garlic, peppercorns and salt together and mix well into the beef. Set aside for a few minutes to season.

Heat the oil in a large heavy skillet, add the onion, chile and a sprinkle of salt, and cook over medium heat until the onions is translucent, about 1 minute. Add the tomaotes and continue cooking until most of the juice has been absorbed, about 3 minutes. 


Stir the meat into the pan and cook over fairly high heat, stirring from time to time, about 7 minutes. Add the cabbage, beans, water and cilantro and continue cooking over medium heat, stirring from time to time until the mixture is well seasoned and moist but not juicy, about 15 minutes. Serve on tostadas, or as a stuffing for chiles or as a main course with rice. 


Variations: I made the dish in my clay cazuela from Pueba, from start to finish. I was out of fresh tomatoes and used half a can of whole peeled tomatoes. A few drops of full fat plain yogurt somehow managed to land on the finished tostadas and it was really good. I also tried cheese but it was gilding the lily and not anywhere near as good as nothing.

Remember: Meet Lorna Sass On Friday

Just a little reminder to come by the Rancho Gordo headquarters for our open house to meet Lorna Sass. Lorna will demo her slick new WMF pressure cooker to celebrate the anniversary of her seminal book, Cooking Under Pressure


Along with Lorna's pressure cooker magic, you'll meet Shelley and Ash from Sonoma's Bram Cookware. They'll have a display of their incredible clay cooking pots, along with copies of Lorna's book.

Also on hand are Karen Schupert, of Cooks4Seasons, who will help prepare Lorna's food and some snacks from her own healthy kitchen, and Gloria Ferrer winery, in the form of their award winning sparkling wine.

Our open house starts at 5:30 pm at Rancho Gordo, 1924 Yajome St, Napa CA 94559.

Meet Susan Sanchez

I think it's time you met our Operations Manager here at Rancho Gordo. Susan Sanchez was a pastrty chef at San Francisco's seminal Square One restaurant where she met her chef-husband Miguel. They've had culinary adventures together and apart from here to Kansas City and back to the Bay Area. She's landed (firmly on her feet, I should say) here at Rancho Gordo and now she's the reason your orders arrive on time.


One of our neighbors came in to ask us a mundane question and saw Susan. "It's Cindy, right?" so of course Susan's nickname is now "Cindy" or "Cindy Lou" if you really want her do you a favor. She hates it but we love her and there's nothing she can do about it.

From Fish Tagine to Hearty Soup

I cringe a little when people come up with creative ways of cooking Mexican food without understanding some of the basics. I will understand if you are offended by this meal if you love Middle Eastern food. I had fish, a tagine and my 8-year old son on hand and this all seemed to make sense.


Nico and I like cooking together. He's willing to try most anything and I can't tell you how much that means. We were bachelors this last weekend so we came up with this fish tagine. We sauteed onions and garlic in lots of fruity olive oil in the bottom of our tagine and when the vegetables were soft, we added chopped tomatoes. While these cooked, Nico took several threads of saffron and added them to half a cup of warm water and let them steep for about 5 minutes. We added the saffron water and half a cup of chicken stock to the tagine, salted and mixed it all together than placed two hefty trout on top. When everything was comfy, we turned the heat down to very low and replaced the cover on the tagine, letting it cook until the fish was done, about 20 minutes.


Nico had never cooked with a whole fish before and loved it, except for the eyes. I told him about my late Uncle Tom and how he'd insist on eating the eyes and how they made him smart. Neither of us ended up eating them. But we ate the rest and it was delicious, served with steamed zucchini and roasted potatoes. Nico had a hunch the leftovers would make a fine soup, so we took them all and added them to a pot with more broth and a pound of soaked runner cannellini


"Papa, what's "soup" in Spanish?" he asked.


"Mmmmmmm......Sopa de Nicolito!"

He was very proud of his creation. And as a father, I was thrilled to see him eating zucchini and fish without wincing.


I know it's a cliche, but I think the best way to get kids excited about food is to cook with them.

Big Events at Rancho Gordo

It started with Lorna Sass and now it's been expanded to a whole series of Great Women of the Kitchen. Four of my favorite Food Divas will be making appearances at the Rancho Gordo store in the coming months.


March 26 at 5:30p

April 11 at 3:30p

April 24 at 3:30p

May 1 at 3:30p

Wild names, aren't they? I can't wait. We'll have some food, a short presentation and a book signing for each. Bram Cookware in Sonoma is co-sponsoring the events and they'll have a little shop set up here so you can buy some of their incredible clay cookware and all the latest books from each of the women.

You can download a PDF invite here.

More on High Altitude Cooking

On addition to a few comments on the subject here on the blog, a lot of Rancho Gordo fan page members on Facebook made some comments on cooking beans at high altitude:


  • In Denver, we just cooked em longer. Same for Montana and the mountains of Wyoming. It takes water longer to come to a boil is all.
  • ^^^actually, the water boils faster at higher elevation because it's boiling at a lower temperature. You wind up needing longer to cook because you're cooking at a lower temp.
  • Being from Albuquerque, we just got used to having to cook them for a longer period. I'm glad to be at sea level now for that reason. I still own and use my pressure cooker though.
  • never mind the altitude . . . the hardness of the water can be crippling! If I don't add some baking soda to the cooking water, it doesn't matter how long I soak OR cook . . . they're gonna be toothsome. RG or non-RG. Word.
  • Just cooked a pot of cranberries in Klamath Falls, OR. It took a little longer, but they were fabulous - even without presoaking.
  • Spring water, no salt till done, add 1/2 as much time and patience. :-)
  • Yup, a pressure cooker, and she still needs to increase standard pressure cooking time by 10% for each 1,000 feet beyond the first 2,000 above sea level. Recently I was in Sedona and my risotto took 6 minutes instead of 4!
  • Having just come down from living over a month at 8500 ft/base, it is a BITCH to cook beans!! They cooked for 2 days and were still not done. Problem is that the water can't get hot enough, for us water boils at around 180F/82C. Pressure cooker might work but it would scare the bejeezuz out of me to use it at altitude (the coffee pot routinely explodes every morning). I'm giving up....will use canned beans and pretend I cooked them. Lousy trade off,but the skiing is good.

Meeting Up with the Hope of Tomorrow

Here at Rancho Gordo we had a chance to meet with Napa's culinary leaders of tomorrow. Vintage High School teacher (and longtime friend of Rancho Gordo) teacher Mike Cromwell brought his culinary class for a visit.


The kids ate some of the beans from the Heirloom Beans book (prepared by them) and then I gave them a tour of the store, the packing area and our mail order center (it's all in the same big space but I try and milk it for all it's worth!)


They were a great crowd and I'd love to think of them cooking beans for the rest of their lives. I would be flattered!