Tepary bean stew
But first, a brief profile of our subject: tepary beans. Tepary beans are native to the Southwest, able to survive in the desert climate because they're more drought-resistant than typical beans. Some believe the name "tepary" comes from the Tohono O'odham phrase "t'pawi," which means "it's a bean."
Bowls of beans at the Public Market
I'll admit, I was a little apprehensive about trying to cook these beans, as I am with any dry beans. The first time I cooked dry beans was a crunchy, near-tooth-chipping disaster. I've learned a lot since then, thankfully--soak them long and cook them slow, starting with cold water, under steady heat. All for the sake of evenly and completely cooked beans. All of these factors make dried beans, and therefore, tepary beans, ideal for some crockpot cookin'. Still, I'd fallen into the habit of using canned black and red beans to make my usual chili ...
When we last saw the beans, I'd just sorted, rinsed, and left them to soak in a bowl of water. I wanted to soak them long enough to rehydrate them a bit and get them ready for cooking, but not so long that they lose flavor. Thus, an overnight soak was ideal. I dunked them just before bedtime.
The next morning, in a whirlwind, I salted and softened up some big chunks of onion and garlic, threw them in a pot along with some tumeric, cumin, paprika, cayenne, a bay leaf, mustard seeds, more salt, and freshly ground pepper, and browned some country pork ribs. Into the pot with those, and lastly, a final quick rinse for the beans, then into the pot and under an inch of water. Then I set the crock on high, and went about my day. I have to admit, whenever I crock while I'm at work, I suffer some minor anxiety attacks, worrying that something will explode or burn or bubble over--something totally imaginably horrible.
When I got home, as soon as I stepped onto my patio, I could smell the spices in much the same order in which I added them to the pot. By the time I got to my door and stuck the key in, I could smell the pork. And as I stepped inside to my little condo, it all came together. I could just smell the beans, simmering away. I saw with relief that nothing had exploded or even bubbled over--in fact, everything looked quite happy and harmonious it the little pot. I took out a forkful of beans, and they smelled wonderful. I took a taste ... oh my. First, I had to tend to my dog, check the mail, work out, and shower. Dinner would have to wait.
Finally. Never one to give up the sauce, I wanted something to soak it up--I try to always have something like whole wheat couscous on hand. How else can it be handy? I figured the meal would be filling enough without rice, and couscous is quick and wonderfully absorbent.
Dished up--hearty, healthy, happy! The pork was so moist and tender, I barely had to chew it. The couscous didn't take anything away and was only a wonderful buffer for the spiced broth--the perfect thing to warm my tummy. And the beans? They melted in my mouth--not mush or slimy, but the perfect vehicle to carry the flavors of the spice. They tasted like red beans, but so much more subtle, and I didn't get tired of their taste as quickly as I do with other beans. I'm glad I found this before winter--it will become a nice addition to my repertoire of warming comfort foods.