Friday, June 25, 2010

Red Bean Chile: It's Hot!

When summer arrives in San Francisco and thick fog rolls through the Golden Gate sending a chill across the city, the time is right for a flavorful bowl of spicy red bean chile. Take some time on a gray afternoon to sink into this recipe which will fill your kitchen with the aroma of an authentic home crafted meal.

Although small red beans are my choice for this recipe, pinto, kidney, anasazi or azuki work equally well. It's best to use beans which have not been languishing in your pantry for months; aged beans lack flavor and may take longer to cook. Pick over the beans, rinse well and soak in fresh water for at least 6 hours before cooking. This recipe may be prepared a day or so before eating; its flavor will deepen overnight.

2- 3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup leek or onion, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 rib celery, thinly sliced
1 large carrot, thinly sliced
1 cup cilantro or Italian parsley, chopped
1- 2 large bay leaves
2 cups small red beans, soaked and rinsed
5- 6 cups fresh water
6 ounces tomato paste
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1- 2 teaspoons crushed dried red chile peppers
1 tablespoon Hungarian paprika
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon dried or fresh marjoram or oregano
1 tablespoon dried or fresh basil leaves
1 tablespoon white miso paste

Heat olive oil in a heavy soup pot and saute leek, garlic and celery until fragrant; add carrot and cilantro and continue to saute briefly. Add bay leaves, beans and water, cover, and bring to a gentle simmer. Place a flame tamer under the pot and cook on a moderate flame for about an hour or until beans are tender, adding more water if necessary. Stir in remaining ingredients except miso; simmer for another 10 minutes. Place a few tablespoons of the chile in a bowl, add miso paste and blend; stir mixture into pot and remove from heat. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Serve hot in preheated bowls; garnish with your choice of chopped cilantro, chopped fresh ripe tomato, or your favorite salsa. Eat slowly; watch fog!