A Healthy Diet and Beans


The lowly bean, long considered "poor man's food," is enjoying a renaissance in popularity as a healthful and delicious staple of a low-fat diet. Not only are common varieties like pinto, Navy and Great Northern beans finding their way into gourmet recipes, but home and restaurant chefs are rediscovering heirloom beans: ancient varieties prized for their color and taste, and lovingly preserved and grown by bean-saving foundations across the country.

In Calypso Bean Soup (May; $12.95; paperback), San Diego nutrition expert Lesa Heebner offers dozens of recipes using heirloom beans of the American West. The beans are as rich in history as they are in nutrients, and their evocative names and vibrant colors reflect the desert beauty of their native region. Dishes include Painted Pony Bean Enchiladas with Red Chile sauce, Rattlesnake Beans with Toasted Spices and Sherried Tomatoes, Black Turtle Bean Patties with Fresh Squash Salsa and a Hopi Woman Bean Salad. Each recipe includes a history of the bean featured.

Included in Calypso Bean Soup are mail-order sources for the heirloom beans and a substitution chart so that any of recipes can be made using more common varieties of beans. Also included are tips for "silencing" beans, and a glossary of basic tips and techniques.

Calypso Bean Soup is ideal for home cooks looking to expand their repertoire of healthy recipes, culinary historians seeking new and unusual foods, or anyone who enjoys the earthy, fiery tastes of Western cuisine.

About the Author

Through her company, Garlic & Sapphires, Lesa Heebner offers cooking seminars on the benefits of choosing more healthful foods. A frequent guest chef on national television, she hosts a weekly food segment on the CBS-TV affiliate in San Diego, CA. She is also the food editor of San Diego Home/Garden Lifestyles magazine.


Rattlesnake Beans with Toasted Spices
and Sherried Tomatoes


The Native Americans who farmed the land had ceremonies to mark and honor the seasonal cycles. Planting was a very spiritual undertaking. Among the Hopis, Kokopelli is the mythological character associated with fertility and germination. His image—a man with a hunchback playing the flute—has been found etched in stone and painted on pots throughout the continent, dating back centuries. The hump on his back is said to be a pack of seeds from which he plants as he moves around. The flute is said to be the source of the spirit breathed into every seed. Rattlesnake beans, ancient beans of the Southwest, were planted for years by the Hopi, sewn with the help of Kokopelli, who infused each seed with the spirit they so honored. Serve this full-flavored bean dish with the following Green Chile Rice and Almonds, plus a green salad for a complete meal.

  • 2 cups dried rattlesnake beans, soaked and drained
  • One 6-inch strip kombu seaweed
  • 2 carrots, cut into 3-inch chunks
  • 1/2 yellow onion, quartered
  • 2 whole cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1/4 cup Sherried Tomato Paste


Put the beans in a 3- or 4-quart saucepan. Add the kombu, carrots, onion, garlic, and enough water to cover by 2 inches. Cover, bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 60 minutes, until the beans are tender. Remove and discard the kombu and vegetables. Stir in salt.

Meanwhile, toast the cumin seeds and coriander seeds in a dry skillet until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat immediately and grind in a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle. This will equal 1 tablespoon of ground spices. (Alternately, measure out 1-1/2 teaspoons ground cumin and 1-1/2 teaspoons ground coriander and toast briefly in a dry skillet.)

Stir the spices and Sherried Tomato Paste into the beans.

Serves 6 to 8

To Make Sherried Tomato Paste, pour a half cup of sherry over one cup of sundried tomatoes. Heat in the microwave for two minutes or on the stove top for ten minutes in the work bowl of a food processor and process. Add two to four tablespoons of water as needed to process into a paste. Makes two-thirds cup sherried tomato paste, or about ten tablespoons. Cover and refrigerate. It will keep for up to one month.


Gratin of Winter Beans and Vegetables

Unlike all other beans, the garbanzo is the only true winter crop, perfect for the cold-weather theme of this creamy gratin.

  • 1 6-ounce can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 cups lowfat milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 pound potatoes, unpeeled and sliced 1/8 inch thick
  • 1/2 large red onion, sliced 1/8 inch thick
  • 1/2 pound celeriac (celery root), peeled and sliced 1/8 inch thick
  • 6 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly spray an 8 x 8 x 2-inch baking dish with vegetable oil spray. Set aside.

Coarsely chop the garbanzo beans and toss them with the minced garlic and thyme. Set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, salt, and pepper.

Lay half the potato slices in the baking dish, overlapping slightly. Add half the chopped garbanzo beans, half the onions, half the celeriac, then half the cheese.

Continue by layering the remaining potatoes, beans, onions, celeriac, and cheese.

Pour the milk/egg mixture over all.

Cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes.

Remove the foil and bake for an additional 35 to 40 minutes. Once during this period of baking, press down on the top layer of potatoes to coat them in the milk/egg mixture so they don't dry out. The gratin is done when it is bubbly and browned on top.

Remove from the oven and cool for about 15 minutes before serving. Serve warm.


Recipes from:
Calypso Bean Soup
by Lesa Heebner
Book Design by Claudia Smelser
Publication date; May 1996
7-3/8" x 9-1/4";
128 pages; 43 recipes
ISBN: 0-06-258617-3
Reprinted with permission

This page originally published as a FoodDay article in 1997.

Copyright © 2007, Forkmedia LLC. All rights reserved.

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This page modified January 2007

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