Makes 4 to 6 servings or 6 or 7 cups

The Rancho Gordo Heirloom Bean Grower’s Guide, Steve Sando’s 50 Favorite Varieties, is full of photos and information on the history and use of these precious beans.

1 cup heirloom chili beans (Cranberry Beans, Santa Maria Pinquitos, Good Mother Stallard, Yellow Indian Woman, Appaloosa or California beans from Rancho Gordo)
6 cups water or mild-tasting vegetable broth (3 cups to soak, 3 cups to pressure-cook)
3-inch piece kombu sea vegetable
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon high heat olive oil blend (equal parts EVOO/extra virgin olive oil and Spectrum brand high-heat sunflower oil)
1 onion, diced
2 large cloves garlic, pressed or minced
1 carrot, diced
1 small green Bell pepper, diced
1¼ teaspoons unrefined sea salt
1 tablespoon each oregano and cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder, or to taste
1 teaspoon smoked paprika (sweet or hot), for extra heat (optional)
1 14.5-oz. can crushed tomatoes fire-roasted with sauce/juice, Muir Glen Organic, 1 ½ cups; or roast your own, 2 pounds tomatoes yields 1 ½ cups, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 4-oz. can diced fire-roasted whole green chilis, Hatch brand, ½ cup; or roast your own, peel, seed and chop
2 tablespoons lemon or lime juice or apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup or brown rice syrup
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped


1/2 cup Tofu Sour Cream (recipe follows)
Half an avocado, diced small
6 sprigs cilantro

Tofu Sour Cream:
      Makes 1 cup
1/2 pound fresh tofu, medium or soft
2 tablespoons lemon juice, alone, or combined with apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon EVOO
1/2 teaspoon unrefined sea salt

1. Sort through beans for stones by spreading them on a white plate. Rinse beans in water to cover. Drain, and transfer to pressure cooker or pot. Bring to boil. Turn heat off and soak beans overnight, all day, or up to 24 hours.

2. Drain beans. Add 3 cups fresh water to pot. Bring to boil and slow-boil uncovered for 5 minutes to allow initial gas to escape in the form of froth or steam. Add kombu and bay leaf and cover to bring to boil or pressure. Turn heat low to cook for 30 minutes. Makes 3 2/3 cups Pinquito beans and their broth. Cut kombu in cubes and return to pot. Discard bay leaf.

3. To make Tofu Sour Cream, blend ingredients until creamy smooth.

4. Heat oil in a 3- or 4-quart pot. Add onion, garlic, carrot, Bell pepper and sea salt. Stir and cook covered for 5 minutes, stirring once or twice.

5. Add remaining ingredients along with beans and their broth. Simmer until flavors are blended, about 10 minutes.  Stir in cilantro and cook a couple of minutes more. Top each serving with a dollop of Tofu Sour Cream, cubes of avocado, and a sprig of cilantro.