A while back my husband and I bought a mammoth, 25-pound bag of pinto beans — a decision which has had its ups and its downs. On the plus side, beans are cheap, healthy, and filling, and buying in bulk cuts down on wasteful packaging. On the other side, we’ve had to store a bag of beans that weighs almost as much as our two-year old and takes up just about as much space.
Difficulties of storing and lifting aside, we’ve had fun finding new ways to enjoy our seemingly never-ending bean supply. Bean soups, southwestern bean salads, and beans as a side for Texas barbecue have been plentiful. However, I think my favorite bean dish to date is this Indian-inspired curry, with hearty pinto beans as the star and delicate baby kale in a supporting role.
The spice (heat) level can be kicked up or down according to your preferences, and the intensely flavored beans make a great vegetarian main dish either on their own or served with rice or bread.
A note on curry powder: Your results will vary slightly based on the curry powder blend that you use. I used an organic, salt-free, store-brand containing a mix of coriander, turmeric, mustard, cumin, fenugreek, paprika, cayenne, cardamom, nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves. Yield: 4 to 6 hearty servings on its own, or 6 to 8 served over rice.
Curried Pinto Beans with Kale Recipe
2 cups dried pinto beans
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
1 (14.5 oz) can diced organic tomatoes, with the juice (substitute 14.5 oz fresh tomatoes if desired)
1 tbsp freshly grated ginger root (or about a 1-inch chunk of fresh ginger root, peeled)
3 medium-sized cloves garlic, peeled
2 medium-sized shallots, peeled and quartered
1 jalapeno, stem removed (cored and seeded for less heat)
¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves, plus more for garnishing
2 tbsp curry powder
2 cups chopped baby kale (substitute baby spinach if desired)
½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
Place the beans in a large pot and completely cover with water. Cover and let the beans soak at room temperature for 4 to 6 hours.
Strain off the soaking water and cover the beans with fresh water so that the water level extends two-to-three inches above the beans. Add the salt and pepper and bring the beans to a vigorous boil, stirring once or twice. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for one hour, stirring occasionally and adjusting the heat if necessary.
Place the tomatoes, ginger, garlic, shallots, jalapeno, cilantro, and curry powder in a blender and blend until completely smooth. Stir the curry mixture into the beans, place the lid on the pot ajar (to allow steam to escape but prevent splatters), and cook over med-low heat, stirring occasionally, for one more hour or until the beans are tender and the sauce is fairly thick. Add the baby kale and cinnamon, stirring until the greens are softened, and finish by stirring in the vinegar.
Typically this sort of dish would be served with basmati rice, but I like to serve it with wedges of warm, whole-grain naan (or even toasted sandwich bread) for dipping or sopping up any extra sauce. My husband likes to dress his beans up with a dollop of Greek yogurt and a drizzle of Sriracha. I like mine simply garnished with a sprinkle of finely chopped cilantro.