These heirloom varieties are some of Steve Sando’s favorites. Order them online from Rancho Gordo (www.ranchogordo.com)
Tepary: A drought-tolerant, indigenous bean developed by Native Americans, tiny tepary beans may be brown or white. They’re higher in protein and fiber than most beans, chewy in consistency and slightly sweet. Cook with onion and garlic, and try in salads with roasted chiles.
Rio Zapé: This Hopi bean from Arizona is deep purple, with wisps of black, and has a rich, juicy flavor, reminiscent of dark chocolate. Cook Rio Zapé beans simply, with onion and garlic, and serve with flank steak rubbed with ancho chiles and garlic.
Cannellini: These large, creamy white beans, sometimes referred to as white kidney beans, benefit from soaking prior to cooking. They can be used in place of navy or great northern beans.
Ojo de Cabra (Goat’s Eye): Pale buff with a swirling black “eye,” this meaty bean turns brown and forms its own rich “pot licker” broth when cooked.
Ojo de Tigre (Tiger’s Eye): Deep orange with brown “tiger” stripes, this pinto-like bean is truly beautiful. Perfect for soup and refried beans.
Vallarta: Dense and creamy, this small, white bean is a favorite of Napa chefs. Start with a simple mirepoix (sautéed onion, carrot and celery), then boil and use in salads. Or mix with sautéed greens to serve with fish or for stuffing pasta.