We dipped into our supply of pinto beans from Alvarez for this hearty meal, and his tasted fresher and more toothsome than those from the grocery store, which lose texture while sitting in storage, sometimes for years. I’d bet good money that most folks could tell the difference in a blind taste test. In fact, the beans were the star of the meal, never mind my efforts to gussy up the rice with carnitas and roasted poblano chilies. A salad of greens, radishes, and carrots rounded things out. Mostly local, 100% deluxe.

Dead of Winter Pinto Beans

1½ cups pinto beans / 2 strips bacon / 1 onion, minced / ½ jalapeno, seeded and minced / 1 tbls tequila / chopped cilantro or scallions to taste / salty Mexican cheese or feta / salt & pepper

Rinse beans, place in pressure cooker with about 6 cups water, and cook under pressure until tender, between 20 and 30 minutes depending on freshness of beans. Cool. Alternately, cook beans for 1½ hrs in a regular stovetop pot. Crisp bacon in a separate 5-quart pot until fat is rendered, pour out most of bacon fat and drain bacon strips on a paper towel, then chop. Saute onion and jalapeno until soft, 8 minutes. Ladle pintos plus some of their cooking liquid into the pot with onions/jalapenos and cook until flavors are combined, about 20 minutes. Season with salt & pepper. Stir in tequila and garnish with cilantro or scallions and crumbled cheese. Serves 3-4 as a main dish served with rice and salad. Adapted from Rick Bayless.

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