November 5, 2012
Denise Simmons, Corporate Chef

Southwestern cuisine has gained significant popularity the past few years. We’ve had tex-mex (think Taco Bell) for many years, but I’m talking about a more authentic type of food, mixing southern US & Mexican cuisines to form a style unique to Arizona, New Mexico & southern California. I was born in Phoenix, AZ, so I was raised on tacos & chile rellenos, the way most American kids were raised on burgers & fries.

One of my favorite dishes has always been pinto beans. Dried beans, sorted carefully to pick out any bad beans or pebbles that may have gotten into them during harvesting. Slow cooked-all day-with lots of fresh garlic & onions. Occasionally some hatch chiles added for extra pizzazz. My folks have been
getting an amazing variety of pintos from my aunt & uncle in Colorado, where they’re grown (the beans, not my aunt & uncle..). The Colorado beans are smaller & a bit sweeter than the beans I remember from childhood.

I was at the Whole Foods grocery store in Charlottesville last week, and was pleasantly surprised to learn of a relatively new variety (a hybrid) of pintos called Rattlesnake Beans. I fell for the name alone, so definitely had to get some & see how they measure up! I cooked a small batch last week-just in time for taco Friday with my folks (a long standing family tradition!). They’re smaller than even the Colorado pintos, and a good bit sweeter & creamier as well. They cook up a bit darker-they almost look like a small red kidney bean. They were delicious, but I think we’ll be sticking with the Colorado pintos…it has a little bit to do with flavor, but I think more to do with tradition…