Legumes have been cultivated throughout the world for thousands of years. There’s evidence that they were some of the first cultivated crops in human history. This makes them an essential part of the evolution of early civilizations. When hunter-gatherer groups started to develop agricultural systems they were able to establish into more stable communities that were the beginning of complex societies.
Peas were being cultivated in Thailand as early as 9750 BC. The use of lentils has been traced back as far as 6750 BC in parts of the Middle East. Lentils, chickpeas and fava beans have been found in 4000 year-old Egyptian tombs.
In the Americas, early civilizations cultivated the Phaseolus vulgaris, or common bean, as early as 7000 BC. This variety includes pinto, black, kidney, lima and haricot beans among many others. Its adaptability helped it to become one of the staple crops in the continent.
Beans are great for many reasons. They come in hundreds of shapes sizes and colors. They’re versatile and amazingly convenient because they can be dried up and stored for years. Their health benefits are many. They’re low in fat, contain no cholesterol and are high in folate, potassium, iron and magnesium. They also contain beneficial fats and soluble and insoluble fiber. Also, being a good source of protein, they’re a great substitute for meat.
In Mexico, beans might be the second most important crop right after maize. These two crops along with squashes, peppers, chia seeds, amaranth, wild greens, insects and some meat as fish, turkey, venison and other game, made a complete and nutritious diet that allowed pre-Columbian civilizations to thrive.
Because of their low cost, today beans are still an important part of the Mexican diet and an important source of protein for low income families that can’t afford to eat meat every day. Beans are associated in many parts of the world as food for the poor. Their consumption in developing countries is a lot higher than in developed ones.
However, the benefits of choosing beans over meat go beyond lower costs. They’re healthy. Producing them leaves a much smaller carbon footprint than producing red meats and, most importantly, they’re delicious and so versatile you can use them with almost any other food group.
One of the best known dishes out of Mexico is refried beans. In restaurants, street food stalls, and kitchens all over Mexico this is a staple food that is prepared almost every day. There are several ways to prepare them according to the region of the country. Here I want to share my own recipe that I’ve been making for a few years in my kitchen. It’s a delicious way to include beans in your diet.
Chorizo and Chipotle Refried Beans
4 cups cooked anasazi beans
2 dried smoked chipotle peppers (found in your local Mexican or Latin market)
1/2 lb Mexican chorizo
1/2 white onion, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
chicken broth as needed
1. Re-hydrate the chipotle peppers in about 1/4 cup of boiling water with the 2 cloves. Liquify them in a blender or food processor and set apart.
2. In a large cast-iron skillet fry the chorizo. Oil is not necessary because we’ll be using the fat from the chorizo.
3. Add the chopped onion and let it cook for about 3 minutes.
4. Add cooked beans, one cup at a time, and mash using a potato masher. Alternatively, you can use a blender or food processor to mush up the beans. For this you might need some chicken broth.
5. Add the liquified chipotle peppers and stir.
6. Adjust seasoning if necessary. Simmer for about 20 minutes stirring constantly.
• You can replace the anasazi beans with canned pinto or black beans.
• If dried chipotles are not available you can replace them with canned chipotle in adobo peppers.
• These beans are perfect as a side dish They can also be served as appetizers and party snacks. Just serve a spoonful on tortilla chips and topped with some cheese.
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