On my trip to Sonoma County a few weeks ago, I re-discovered Santa Maria Pinquitos, a small New World bean which is delicious in flavor and creamy in consistency. I was at the Tierra Vegetables farm stand and noticed them in a big bin.
I took them home and cooked them up that night. They took very little maintenance, and I created a successful dish without much fussing. And that's really why this bean is remarkable: it tastes delicious and I really feel that it's fail-safe. It holds its consistency long after other types of beans would have broken down. And for someone like me who often gets distracted while cooking, this is a major bonus.
Santa Maria Pinquitos come from Santa Maria, California which is on the central coast about an hour north of Santa Barbara. Santa Maria is famous for its simple-style barbecue -- tri-tip or top sirloin that has been spiced (salt, pepper, garlic salt) and cooked over Santa Maria Valley red oak coals. Pinquito beans are a typical side for the meat.
Santa Maria Pinquitos have been identified by Slow Food's Ark of Taste, a program which has identified products which are in danger of becoming extinct and that taste so great that they should be saved.
Pinquitos are a small bean that cooks fairly quickly. Some sites say that you can substitute pinquitos anywhere that a pinto bean is called for. I understand that because the pot liquor tastes approximately the same, and the bean is similar in general. However, I feel that the pinquito's size makes it something you may want to highlight in something like a chili or a basic side dish. So far, I've been covering the pinquito beans with cold water and cooking alone for approximately 45 minutes, but they would be delicious when cooked with onion and bacon.
We're lucky to have two local growers of Santa Maria pinquitos in the Bay Area: