Written by Nik Jameson
Next stop on the culinary tour of Yucatecan is to explore the local beans, squash, and chili peppers and try our hand at a tasty three-bean chili. First off you need to pass by the market and pick up some squash and peppers. They are everywhere, in all the grocery stores. Knowing how to use them is critical because the selection in some stores can sometimes be dismal. These two, poblano chile and calabaza local (local squash) add variety to the diet, with similar textures to bell peppers and zucchini respectfully.
Poblano: A green pointed pepper. These can sometimes be spicy, but usually, they are mild and even more so when you remove the seeds and stem.
Preparing Poblanos: Traditionally these chili peppers are roasted over an open stove flame until the outside is charred. They are then immediately steamed in a just big enough plastic container with the lid tightly closed. When cooled and you can easily handle the pepper, hold by the stem and remove all the charred skin in a downward motion. At this time you can open and remove the seeds. Skin removed, poblano chilis are traditionally used in rajas, salsas, and as stuffed peppers.
I have found you can also skip the lengthy skin removing, and chop them up like bell peppers. Charred they have a softer texture and deeper flavor, but I like them sauteed just as much. I most often use them chopped in stir fry, soups, and mixed with mushrooms for tacos. They are much more cost-effective than bell peppers. Note, they will never be as sweet as red pepper and I would recommend always cooking them. In a raw salad or wrap, I would NOT choose poblano.
Beans, finally an ingredient that isn’t unusual. Right? While most of the beans you will find are quite familiar, black beans, pinto, and garbanzo. If you are adventurous, you can also try local lentils, speckled beans, and did you know there are more than one variety of black beans?
Some bean recommendations:
Lenteja de la MILPA –
This is local lentil, larger and more rounded than common lentils.
It comes in light and medium brown, both varieties are speckled.
Frijol de Mayo –
A beautiful, speckled pink bean similar to pinto beans in size, from and texture.
Frijol Bayo –
This is a pinkish tan bean similar to kidney beans in size, form and texture.
Frijol Negro Jamapa –
This is a smaller and softer black bean variety used to make delicious bean dishes.
Don’t forget to add a couple leaves of epazote when cooking them.
About the Chili – Although it’s a northern dish, the Yucatan provides all the ingredients necessary to make a super delicious chili. My Yucatecan husband exclaimed the first time he tried chili, “it’s sort of like frijoles charros,” comparing it to a spiced bean dish eaten like a soup or as a side dish usually during afternoon meals. Frijoles charros is beloved throughout Mexico and gives energy to school children and labor workers alike. That was a compliment from the chef, seeing as my Mexican husband cooks for a living. Since then, he has become addicted to my veggie-heavy 3 bean chili. I’ve adapted it from my father’s original recipe to use more local spices like achiote. To make the flavor deep and easy to achieve.
Recipe notes: You can use any 3 beans, I always make this recipe with already cooked beans. I cook my beans fry dry, technique here → https://nikofthyme.com/beans/ Canned beans are fine (that’s what my dad uses), but should be rinsed as they have a lot of added salt. I add epazote and/or fennel seeds because they help control gas and bloating. Benas- I prefer black, red and lentil, but I have made this recipe with countless bean variations and all of them are delicious. The achiote paste in this recipe was originally tomato paste, but when I first moved to the Yucatan it wasn’t available, therefore, I substituted. Now tomato paste is more widely seen, but I still love it with achiote. I cook this on the stove, but a slow cooker also works.
Three Bean Chili Recipe
3 cups cooked beans (1 cup of each selected bean type)
5 white button mushrooms
1 poblano pepper
2-3 cloves of garlic
1 stick of celery (optional)
1 small local pumpkin (or zucchini)
2 potatoes (optional)
3 red Roma tomatoes
2 green tomatoes (tomatillos) (optional)
1 T achiote paste
1 t lime juice
Salt and pepper to taste ¼ t cumin
3-5 fresh epazote leaves (optional)
3-7 kernels of fennel seed (optional)
First, cook the beans, or open and rinse canned beans. Set aside for later.
- Chop the onion and poblano pepper in cubes.
- Prep the tomatoes and tomatillos (if using) by cutting them into small cubes.
- Heat 1-2 T of oil in a deep, heavy-bottomed stockpot on medium flame.
- Crush the garlic and add it to the oil, simmer in the oil 1-2 minutes, until fragrant.
- Add the chopped onion and poblano peppers and cook until beginning to brown around the edges.
- Chop the celery into small pieces and add it to the pot.
- At this time you will want to add all the spices, salt, and pepper, and stir continuously until fragrant.
- Add the achiote and lime juice and mix to break up/cover veggies.
- Working quickly add the chopped tomatoes and stir until they release all their juices.
- Add 1 cup of water and allow the contents of the pot to begin simmering.
- Chop carrots and potatoes if using into cubes, and add to the stockpot.
- Chop the local pumpkin (or zucchini) into cubes and add.
- Cover with water and bring to a boil (approximately 6-8 cups of water)
- Check the flavor and adjust the salt and pepper as needed.
- Add the beans and bring to boil again.
- Simmer until all the vegetables are soft.
- When everything is cooked, turn off the heat and stir in the chopped mushrooms.
- Let sit covered for 10-15 minutes.
- Stir again and check the salt and pepper, adjust as needed.
- Serve hot with a squeeze of lime, cheese of choice and tortilla chips.
Recipe by Nik Jameson
For more of her articles you can check our her blog https://nikofthyme.com/