SPONSORED Beans get a bad rap. Sure, they've been known to cause a bit of flatulence, but so do plenty of other delicious foods. Not only do beans taste great, but they also happen to be a nutritional powerhouse. Loaded with soluble fiber, iron, and protein, beans are an inexpensive, sustainable, unprocessed whole food that pops up in cuisines all around the globe. Forget Meatless Mondays, I could eat beans every day. As an employee of Surdyk's Cheese Shop, I've had the good fortune to taste some of the best beans the world has to offer, and let me tell you, the majority of them come from Rancho Gordo. A small specialty food producer out of Napa, Calif., Rancho Gordo offers the most rare, unique beans on the planet. Company founder Steve Sando has made it his mission to revive forgotten bean varietals, bringing these delicious heirloom foods back to the American table. These are not your grandma's kidney beans. The variety is astonishing. Texturally, some are soft, delicate, and thin-skinned, while others are toothsome and rich. Visually, Rancho beans display a kaleidoscopic range of colors and patterns. Try the Black Calypso, a spotted, dalmatian-like black and white bean. Perhaps you'll like my personal favorite, the Pebble bean, which offers a variety of colors and shapes that come from one single plant. These beans look so cool you'd think they were genetically engineered, but in fact they are just the opposite: ancient and traditional.
Most people tend to think cooking dried beans is a pain in the butt. Most will settle for the canned variety, favoring convenience over flavor. This, my friends, is a big mistake. Preparing beans really isn't so difficult; it simply takes a bit of (hands-off) time. All you have to do is rinse and soak overnight. If you're impatient like me, you might want to try a quick-soak method. You really can't go wrong. Google it. Your soaked beans will cook up quickly, and, trust me on this one, once you taste them you'll wonder why anyone would ever opt to serve canned beans. We proudly carry the Rancho Gordo Heirloom Beans book in the Cheese Shop, and it has provided me more inspiration than I could possibly list here. Many of the recipes in the book have made their way into our kitchen at Surdyk's, where we exclusively use Rancho beans in our soups and prepared salads. I've personally created Rancho Gordo gift sets for showers, weddings, and birthdays with a collection of my favorite beans and the Heirloom Beans book nestled in one of the gorgeous terra cotta bean pots, which we stock. I do this for a number of reasons, partly because gift registries are oh so predictable, and, most importantly, because I want to share my love for great food with my loved ones. I encourage you to do the same. Give beans a chance! - Emily Dunne, www.surdyks.com