Yeah, beans. Imagine putting a simple looking, medium sized off-white fresh bean in your mouth. Imagine it is warm, steeped in a summery mix of chopped corn and basil, maybe dusted with a touch of Parmesan. You barely sweep your tongue over the the delicate seed recently liberated from its pod, and it melts as if on command like country whipped butter. Add in the nutritional kick from this humble vegetable and it’s almost too good to be true. I’ve never had a legume quite so perfect as the Poroto Granado.
It may be because it’s fresh that it can be so wonderful in texture and a perfect mix with any sort of vegetable or meat. If you dry them, in Chile they are then called Poroto Viejo, or old bean. Blech. Boring. The standard recipe here calls for a decent stock, homemade is best if you want to avoid the MSG and all manner of extra useless colorings and anti-caking this or that. Essentially, you need a simple stock of bay leaves, onion and garlic [I like to throw shallots in nearly everything] to start. Sauté those babies together, cook the beans once shelled in boiling water, add in ground corn, pumpkin squash and chopped fresh basil, a touch of salt and there you have it, a summer stew. I never measure anything – I suppose if I were a baker I’d be forced to – but if you like to, search for a Porotos Granados recipe and you’ll find plenty of variations in English or Spanish.
I’ve recently seen a post on the crackBook by a Chilean-United Statesian friend saying she’d found them at a market in New York and they were selling them as “Cranberry Beans”, of course this may be due to the red-colored shell they come in. Granada refers to pomegranate, while granado is the pomegranate tree [Often the feminine version of a word is the fruit, and the masculine is the tree it comes from. Backwards? Maybe], as well as “choice or select”. I tend to think this is the meaning behind the recipe, because they really are that much better than any dried or canned bean I’ve ever had. In my life. I’m not sure if “cranberry bean” came from an incorrect translation of pomegranate, or it’s just because they’re red. Regardless, cranberry bean sounds so much more delightful and festive than “choice beans”. The point is, if you find ’em, try ’em. It’s a fab veg dish, and extra taste-tastical if you add a touch of mild, white cheese and hot sauce. I think I’ll make a piquant batch of minestrone with them, and it shall be wondrous.
Speaking of hot sauce, there is one made in the Mapuche area of Chile that is smoky like aged earth with the perfect blend of heat and flavor that you can’t buy in a store. I don’t even know if it has a name beyond “smoky, hot sauce from the south”. They sell it in little plastic bags for 40 cents a pop. And the red. Such a luscious, full-blooded color it almost looks as if it’s been distilling and perfecting itself for hundreds of years. I have a hot sauce smuggler who works in the region, but lives in Santiago so he brings it here to shut me up. I have committed myself to finding out how it is made and seeing if I can replicate the magic. It will be so worth the hunt.