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August 2012

Ham and Yellow Eye Soup

Part of the fun of my job is meeting chefs and seeing what they do 
with my children once they leave my custody. Chef Jason Green of
Albequerque's Grove Cafe and Market twittered about his new soup
creation and I asked if he's share the recipe with us. Normally getting
recipes out of well-meaning chefs is like trying to lose weight in
Bologna (as in it ain't gonna happen despite the best of intentions)
but Chef Greene is a rule breaker and I'm passing on his recipe to you.
Nov2006 1150

Ham & Yellow Eye Soup
Serves 4-6

1# Rancho Gordo Yellow Eye Beans
(soaked as recommend)
3 Chile de Arbols
1# Mustard Greens
1 C White Wine
4 Cloves Garlic (chopped)
1/2 C Carrots (Medium diced)
1/2 C Onion (Small diced)
1/2 C Celery (Medium diced)
1 T Spanish smoked paprika
3 Thyme sprigs fresh thyme
1.5 C Fresh chopped tomatoes
1 Smoked Ham Hock ( Benton's preferably)
6 C Chicken Stock (plus more if needed...)
S & P
Hot Sauce

1. After beans have soaked drain & set aside.
2. In large pot add a few tablespoons oil to pan and heat on
medium heat.
3. After oil is hot add garlic to pan and cook one minute just
before it browns. Then add celery, onion, chile, thyme, salt and
cook until translucent.
4. Add wine to deglaze and cook until reduced by half.
5. Add ham hock and drained beans.
6. Add chicken stock, smoked paprika and chopped tomatoes.
7. Bring to a boil then simmer until beans are almost done...
1 hour or so.
8. 15 minutes before beans are done add chopped carrots
and mustard greens and cook until carrots are done.
9. Add more chicken stock if needed through cooking process.
10. After beans have cooked, remove ham hock and take the
meat off the bone then add it back to soup.
11. Season with salt, pepper and your favorite hot sauce.

Courtesy of Jason Greene, The Grove Cafe & Market

Chilate de Pollo

This last weekend it seemed time to use my few costeño chiles from Oaxaca and I made Chilate de Pollo from Diana Kennedy's seminal Oaxaca al Gusto. Despite being beautiful, it's actually a very functional cookbook. 


This dish is basically a chile-epazote sauce thickened with masa. Elsewhere in Mexico, it isn't thickened and is more like a soup. If you like epazote, you will love this dish. 

Canela: Mexican Soft Cinnamon

Why bother with Mexican cinnamon? It's really very different. The bark you get in most spice jars is cassia and it's very astringent and sharp. Canela is mellower and earthy. You can use it for sweet things but also savory.


One great thing to do is to steep it in your milk while you heat it, waiting for your coffee. I use an Italian moka pot (after a few attempts at very, very expensive espresso machines that seem to break like FIATs) and I'm in love with this combination. The only other thing I need in the mornings is our piloncillo, because, as the Italians say, Life is too bitter not to take sugar in the coffee.

Banana Vinegar: An Incredible Bath for Good Tomatoes

A lot of people are intrigued by our banana vinegar but are at a loss on how to use it. I use it like I would any good vinegar but I'm pretty fast and loose with the rules.


This salad was slmply sliced heirloon tomatoes, doused with banana vinegar. I added some Oregano Indio and chunks of panela cheese (but any simple farmers cheese will do.) At the end just a few drizzles of my best, insanely expensive olive oil and sea salt. It couldn't be easier or more delicious.


California Beanfield Report


This might be your dinner one day soon! The beanfields here in California are doing very well this year and we're crossing our fingers for a huge, healthy crop.


If we run short of Scarlet Runners, you can point to this photo and blame me.


The Scarlet runner has the prettiest flowers of any bean.


These are Vallartas. If you can see, the flowers are purple.


Remember, bean flowers are edible. You can even  plant beans now just for eating the flowers. The runner beans (ayocotes) are the best.

Spanish for Beginners

If you work here at Rancho Gordo, one of the perks is free Spanish lessons. Taught by our own Julio Soriano, this week's lesson is particularly grand. Find a friend and practice this dialogue until memorized. Your Spanish may still be weak but I'll sure be pleased!

(San Pascual is the patron saint of kitchens!)


Cecilia: Tengo hambre.Deberíamos cenar juntos.

 Jorge. Yo también tengo hambre. ¿Y tú, Citlali, quieres algo de comer?

 Citlali: ¡Me muero de hambre! Se me antoja cenar comida china.

 Cecilia: A mi se me antojan unas enchiladas de mole verde, con frijoles refritos.

 Jorge: Entonces vamos a cenar juntos. El restaurante Don Perico sirve enchiladas verdes.

 Cecilia: ¡Esperen! ¡Tengo una idea! ¿Por que no cenamos juntos en mi casa? Podemos ir a Rancho Gordo y compramos frijoles y tortillas de maíz criollo.

 Citlali: ¡Me encantan los frijoles de Rancho Gordo! Son deliciosos, y las tortillas son de nixtamal con maíz amarillo y azul.

 Jorge: Citlali, leí un artículo en el periódico sobre los frijoles de Rancho Gordo. ¿Dónde está la tienda?

 Citlali: La tienda Rancho Gordo es muy conocida. Hay artículos sobre sus productos en muchos periódicos. La tienda está aquí, en Napa, en la calle Yajome, cerca de la escuela New Tech High.

 Cecilia: ¿Pero no es muy tarde para cocinar? Ya son las cuatro de la tarde. No tenemos tiempo para remojar y hervir los frijoles.

 Citlali: No te preocupes Cecilia. Los frijoles de Rancho Gordo son muy frescos. No es necesario remojarlos. Los podemos cocinar sin remojar.

 Jorge: Se me antojan unos frijoles negros. ¡Vamos a Rancho Gordo a comprar frijoles!

 Cecilia:¡Vámonos! Hoy cierran a las cinco y media. Los invito a mi casa. Mi cocina es grande y cómoda. ¡Nos vamos a diverter mucho!

 Jorge y Citlali: ¡Gracias Cecilia!

Beans from Ecuador

Wine Forest's Connie Green recently spent some time in Ecuador and was kind enough to bring me back the beans she found there. She admitted that it wasn't a great bean culture, like Mexico or Peru, but I think these look pretty great.


This one was called Cargabello, and very similar to a Colombian Cargamanto, maybe with a little cranberry mixed in.


Also intersting were these round Bolon Rojos.
Any Ecuadorians want to chime in?


MesAmerica: Four Days Incredible Days in Mexico


photo ©

Although it's a little like taking coals to Newcastle, I just got back from Mexico City where I told our story to 500 food visionaries and thousands of culinary students. I loved every minute of it and saw most of the other presentations.

The Mexicans were very sympathetic and of course my having my lovely business partner, Yunuen, on hand didn't hurt things. We talked about how I got started with Rancho Gordo in Napa, the significance of having Thomas Keller on our side, the flavor profiles of the different varieties and finally how we came together to create the Rancho Gordo- Xoxoc Project which helps us get great beans and created new markets for heirloom varieties of new world products.


photo ©

We were treated like rock stars and a fellow could get used to this kind of attention. Speaking of stars, the other presenters included Diana Kennedy, Christopher Kostow, Brooks Headley, Roberto Solis, Monica Patiño, Alex Stupak, Glora Lopez Morales, Ricardo Muñoz Zurita, Alicia Gironella De'Angeli and Alberto Adria. If any of these names are unfamiliar to you, believe me, they're food superstars and I was very lucky to present among them.


Javier Plascencia of Mision 19 in Baja is often confused with me because we are both so guapo. He happens to be an incredible chef and a good guy. He'll be cooking our beans as part of the San Francisco Street Food Festival later in the month.


Nicos restaurant has been turned into a standard of traditional Mexican cusine thanks to the ever fashionable Gerardo Vasquez Lupo. He's fun, too!


One of the highlghts for me was Daniel Ovadia (from Paxia) and staff as they asked for a better Mexico. Each employee wrote a sentence for un Mexico mejor and the poem was read as Daniel created a dish that first represented a gun and blood and was transformed by a white mole de novia, much as they wish Mexico might be transformed. It was a lofty concept but unnervingly moving.


Pal and Mushroom Maven Connie Green made us all hungry with her presentation.


How big can my head get? Just asking!


Rick Bayless, one of my heroes and I bet yours, too, presented a compelling argument about authenticity and made some delicious food as well. You could hear a pin drop during his presentation.


photo ©

Yunuen was late and it was moments before the presentation so we were set up to use a translator. My Spanish is "fun" at best but right before I went on, she arrived and they mic'd us both up and shoved us on stage. We hadn't spoken since I arrived in Mexico and I guess I forgot to tell her she'd be doing the translating. What a trooper!


I have more thoughts on the conference, the presentations and the revolution in Mexican food but for now I wanted you to see these photos and say hi. I think I need to cook and relax at home after such an intense, great week.