The taco-stand cook who introduced City Restaurant and Border Grill chefs Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger to the red bean stew featured here served it with meat, much like a cassoulet. "We loved it so much we decided to use the idea, but because the beans are so creamy, we omitted the meat and let the flavor speak for itself," said Milliken.
The best red beans, they were told, were from El Salvador. So once in Los Angeles, they sought and found them in Grand Central Market, in downtown Los Angeles. Most any Central American grocery store carries them as well.
Incidentally, ancho , a relatively mild chile, and habanero , the hottest of all chiles, can be found at most gourmet food stores these days. If not available, substitute pasilla or California chiles for ancho , and serrano or jalapeno for the habanero chile.
BORDER GRILL VEGETARIAN RED BEAN STEW
2 cups uncooked red beans
2 carrots, peeled and cut in chunks
2 stalks celery, sliced
2 turnips, peeled and cut in chunks
2 parsnips, peeled and cut in chunks
1 zucchini, cut in chunks
1 yellow crookneck squash, cut in chunks
4 red potatoes, cut in chunks
Extra virgin olive oil
6 cups diced onions
1 tablespoon garlic puree
6 tablespoons ground roasted ancho chiles
1 habanero chile, seeds removed and diced, optional
Ancho Chile Salsa
Rinse beans and place in saucepan with 6 cups salted water. Bring to boil over high heat. Boil 3 minutes. Soak beans overnight in salted water. Rinse again. Add 6 cups water and simmer over medium heat until beans are plump, but still firm. Rinse again.
Blanch carrots, celery, turnips and parsnips. Grill zucchini and squash. Cook potatoes in boiling salted water and drain.
Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in soup pot. Add onions and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook until caramelized, stirring over medium heat until dark golden brown. Add garlic puree and continue to stir until garlic is heated and aroma rises. Stir in ground ancho and diced habanero chile. Add cooked beans, vegetables and 4 cups water. Cover and cook until beans are slightly tender.
Serve vegetables and beans in large bowl topped with Ancho Chile Salsa and drizzle with extra olive oil. Makes 6 to 8 servings.
Ancho Chile Salsa
2 ancho chiles, stems and seeds removed
1 cup orange juice
1/2 cup lime juice
1/2 cup grapefruit juice
Roast chiles, being careful not to scorch them. Cool, peel, then chop and mix with orange, lime and grapefruit juices. Season to taste with salt and pepper.