Easy recipe: You can rock these Ranchero Beans

I probably don’t need to tell you that beans are magnificent. Yes, you probably already know that they’re packed with stuff like protein, fiber and other nutrients that will do your body good, all while being very low in fat and simple sugars. They are also extremely inexpensive. Even in canned form, at about a buck a pound, it’s hard to find a food that packs this much nutritional density for the price.

Beans are also very adaptable. And that’s a good thing, because let’s face it: When eaten alone, popular beans such as pintos aren’t exactly multifaceted in their flavor. But throw in other ingredients and some seasoning to the party, and the beans that anchor a dish can be eaten and enjoyed in a whole new light.

I recently stumbled upon one such dish – ranchero beans – in the deli section of a Ralphs of all places, and was surprised at how well the humble pinto livened up with a larger culinary cast. I promptly decided to re-create this recipe myself, adding even more impact with additional ingredients.

Think of ranchero beans as a south-of-the-border take on pork and beans. Bacon is sautéed to render fat and add flavor from the meat, then extras such as onion, bell pepper and tomatoes are added in stages before the beans, of which I use two kinds for variety and visual appeal. A bit of chicken broth gives this dish more depth and a slightly soupy, chili-like quality. For a vegetarian version, substitute two tablespoons of olive oil instead of the bacon, and vegetable broth in place of the chicken broth. This recipe is a bit spicy but won’t blow your ears off. If you want it that way, instead of the canned jalapenos use fresh jalapeno, Serrano (or if you dare, habanero) peppers and/or cayenne powder.

Ready to experience legumes in a whole new light? Let’s make ranchero beans.

ROCKIN’ RANCHERO BEANS

(Makes 4-6 servings)

  • 4 bacon strips, diced
  • 1 brown onion, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 4-ounce can diced jalapeno peppers
  • 29-ounce (1 pound, 13 ounce) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 8 ounces chicken broth
  • Garnish: Fresh cilantro, chips

Step 1: Grab a large pot, heat on medium, and cook the bacon for about 5 minutes until it’s almost done, stirring often.

Step 2: While bacon cooks, prep the onion and bell pepper, then add the pieces to the pot and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring often.

Step 3: Now add the garlic, cumin and oregano and cook for 1 minute. Doesn’t this smell amazing?

Step 4: Now add everything else except the garnish and stir, being sure to scrape bottom of pan. Heat on high until the mixture boils, stirring occasionally.

Step 5: We’re in the final stretch. Once mixture boils, turn heat to low and simmer uncovered 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Congratulations: You’ve just made Rockin’ Ranchero Beans. Ladle into bowls, garnish with cilantro, cheese, sour cream, and/or homemade salsa, and serve with chips and tortillas. Promptly refrigerate leftovers. When ready to reheat, do so in a microwave or in a pan on the stove.

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