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Heirloom Beans: Great Recipes for Dips and Spreads, Soups and Stews, Salads and Salsas, and Much More from Rancho Gordo Paperback – September 17, 2008

4.7 out of 5 stars 81 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Steve Sando is the founder of Rancho Gordo, the acclaimed specialty food company that distributes heirloom produce, seeds, and beans worldwide. He lives in Northern California.

Vanessa Barrington is a writer and recipe developer.

Sara Remington is a San Francisco Bay Area-based photographer.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 180 pages
  • Publisher: Chronicle Books; First Edition edition (September 17, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0811860698
  • ISBN-13: 978-0811860697
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (81 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #78,165 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Joseph Adler VINE VOICE on October 1, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I first discovered Rancho Gordo a couple of years ago at the San Francisco Ferry Terminal Market. I'd gotten bored with vendor after vendor selling heirloom tomatoes, tree-ripened fruit, and wild greens. I love all those things, but I needed a source of protein. And then I spotted the Rancho Gordo booth. Rancho Gordo's booth had dozens of varieties of beans: black midnight beans, anasazi beans, eye of the goat, and many more. I took a chance on a few pounds of heirloom beans. The beans were delicious, but I couldn't figure out what to do with them except cooking them with a bay leaf and a little mirepoix. This works really well for black beans, but doesn't seem to be the best choice for chestnut limas. And that's what excited me about this book.

Heirloom Beans is a pretty, well produced cookbook about beans. It contains basic information about dozens of varieties of beans (though it omits a few popular varieties of heirlooms like pebble beans), and has many recipes that show off the properties of each variety. Most (I would guess three quarters) of the recipes in this book are Mexican, Southwestern, or South American. The remainder are Italian, French, and Spanish.

Most of the recipes appear to be clearly written and straightforward, and don't use too many unusual ingredients. My local Whole Foods has several varieties of heirloom beans (from different producers), and I've seen some others at Italian or Mexican specialty stores; I assume that most readers will be able to find some of the beans mentioned in this book. In my experience, it is worth seeking out good quality beans. Plain black beans from the supermarket (even organic ones) can be a little dull and flat, and better beans can make a big difference in a recipe.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Heirloom Beans by Steven Sando, the founder of Rancho Gordo, a food company, and food writer Vanessa Barrington, is on a mission to make beans--especially heirloom beans--cool in America. This is not an easy task, the authors point out, in spite of the fact that beans have been a heralded staple internationally. For some reason, Americans embrace the less nutritive and complex tasting corn but eschew beans.

Sadly, Americans shy away from beans as beans are synonymous with the embarrassing digestive fiascos (perhaps Blazing Saddles did more than any cultural event to demonize beans). But Steve Sando has a solution: Eat lots of beans all the time and your digestive system will adapt. Sando is not pushing beans because they are rich in nutrients and fiber. He is not pushing beans because since eating them daily his good cholesterol has gone up and his bad cholesterol has gone down. He is pushing beans because they are an amazing side dish or main entrée. I knew this from watching Mario Batali on the television make mouth-watering Italian-style fava beans, but in Heirloom Beans, you learn how to prepare appetizers, snacks, soups, stews, chilies, salads, side dishes, main dishes, and casseroles with heirloom beans.

This book does not champion all beans. Non-heirloom beans such as kidneys, great northerns, and limas, Sando writes, are cheap but "boring." In contrast, heirloom beans are tastier, more complex, and, due to their artisan growers, fresher. The book includes a list, accompanied by beautiful photos, of over 30 heirloom beans.
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Format: Paperback
I've had this cookbook for 5 months now (Christmas present), and can highly recommend it.

Before I review the cookbook, let me just comment on the beans. I've bought Rancho Gordo beans 3 or 4 times (in the last order, I spent $70--something the penny-pincher in me REALLY resisted, but the beans are very high quality, and the big order saved on shipping costs I would have paid for several smaller orders).

These beans are "fresh," by which I mean that they're harvested/dried and sold quickly, within a season, often--something you won't get with those bagged beans on your grocer's shelf. (Steve Sando, owner of Rancho Gordo and author of the book, defines "fresh" as used within two years, but I doubt RG beans are even that old.) If you think that doesn't make a difference, I urge you to try these. The other thrill of RG beans is the variety. Where I live (western NY), we simply can't find the variety of dried beans--heirloom or otherwise--in stores or farmers markets. The selection is great. You can also search online for other purveyors of heirloom beans. Some are less expensive, but be sure to include shipping and selection in your decision (RG beans have one flat shipping rate, no matter the quantity).

Many of the book's recipes are fabulous. We've repeated several of them and want to try more, and for that reason I am recommending this book highly. I docked one star because some of the recipes seemed bland; my husband and I felt that maybe one or two additional ingredients would have jazzed them up (so it's worth fiddling with them if you feel, as we did, that they're a near-miss). I'm glad to see other reviewers loved the Drunken Beans; it gives me the incentive to try them again, because we thought they were bland.
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