With the rising cost of food, family cooks everywhere are faced with the dilemma of finding inexpensive, yet nutritious, foods to prepare for their families. One such item is the pinto bean.
These delicious beans are a staple of many Mexican and Border restaurants and family households throughout the Southwestern part of the country. As Mexican food increases in its’ popularity across the nation, you will find pinto beans prepared in a variety of ways in many eateries from state to state.
Not only are these beans delicious and inexpensive, also they contain an important source of nutrients required by the human body. They contain starch, protein, fiber, iron, vitamin B6, and folic acid. The nutrients are excellent for the digestive system and the heart.
Dry pinto beans are available year-round. They are also available cooked and canned, but the price of the canned beans almost doubles in comparison to the dry beans. The average cost of pinto beans is approximately $1.25 per pound. But if you buy from the bulk bins, you will see an even greater savings. In saving money when you grocery shop, it makes sense to purchase the dry beans and cook them at home. They are very simple to prepare. Once cooked, they will last in a covered container in the refrigerator for approximately three days. One cup of dry pinto beans makes about 3 cups of cooked beans.
The versatility of the pinto bean compliments many American and Border dishes. Cooks can prepare them as a side dish with almost any main course they choose. They go very well with Mexican dishes such as steak tampiqueña, in chili, in breakfast burritos, with enchiladas and tacos. You can slow cook them with a ham hock, onions, chorizo (Mexican sausage), and green chile. You can refry cooked beans with cheese, red chile powder, cumin, a little milk, minced onion, and cooked chopped steak. You can make a pate and serve over sliced and toasted French baguettes for an appetizer. Bean soup is also quite tasty on cold winter days.
Here are a few easy recipes that you can prepare. Remember, recipes are not written in stone. They are simply guidelines and ideas that you can take and adapt as your own. Experiment. Add ingredients that your family would enjoy. Remove ingredients that you know they wouldn’t. Simply remember that when you are trying to save on the high cost of food, there are simple food items, like the pinto bean, that you can prepare for your family and know that it is not only tasty and inexpensive, but also nutritious. Enjoy.
Basic Cooking Method:
2 cups of uncooked pinto beans
10 cups of water
Before cooking the beans, they need to be picked through to remove any pebbles or debris. Once this is done, soak them in water overnight in the refrigerator. If you forget to soak them overnight, don’t worry. Place the cleaned beans in a pot and cover with water. Heat over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil. Cover and turn off heat. Let the beans sit for about an hour to allow them to get tender.
Drain the soaking water and rinse the beans. Cover them with fresh water making sure that the water level goes up about 2 inches over the beans. Bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer the beans for approximately 2 hours until tender. Do not season the beans until the cooking process is almost over, otherwise the skin tends to get tough and dark.
Melt about 2 tablespoons bacon fat in a large skillet. If you don’t have any bacon fat, use shortening, but the bacon fat will give the beans a much better flavor. Add 1/2 small onion, minced, and 1/2 cup chopped green chile, or one link of chorizo. Add 2 cups drained, cooked pinto beans to the skillet. With a potato masher, mash the beans to a rough puree. If you see the beans getting too dried out, add a little milk. Season with 1/4 teaspoon cumin and 1/2 teaspoon salt. When the beans reach a steaming consistency, cover the top with 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese. Allow the cheese to start melting then serve while still hot.