Old New World: Hopi pinto beans with green chile sauce and blue corn tortillas

soaked and drained pinto beans 

If I thought I could get away with it like Amélie Poulain, I would be forever sticking my hands into barrels of dried beans. They're like treasure chests of lovely small gems: so smooth, so many colors. I may be prone to fits of whimsy but I'm no cinematic ingenue; I keep my hands to myself.

Today's bean is the marvelous Pinto bean, cooked up in a Hopi bean stew served with green chile sauce and blue corn tortillas.


Hopi pinto beans

makes 6-8 servings 

  • 2 1/2 cups dried Pinto beans, washed and soaked overnight
  • 7 cups water
  • 1 square inch dried Kombu
  • salt to taste

Rinse soaked beans and add to a pot along with the water and dried Kombu. 

Simmer for three hours or until beans are tender, adding water as needed and stirring occasionally.  Remove Kombu.

Add salt to taste; I used 1 tsp.

Serve over tortillas topped with chile sauce. 

green chile sauce 

makes about 3 cups 

  • 1 TBSP sunflower oil
  • 6 green chiles, seeds removed, chopped
  • 2 large tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped

Heat the sunflower oil in a pot over medium heat. Add chiles, stir, then add tomatoes. Cook until vegetables are soft, about 8 minutes. Add onions and continue cooking until tender, about another 8 minutes.

peppers and tomatoes simmering for green chile sauce

blue corn tortillas 

makes 6

  • 1 cup blue cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup + 2 TBSP water
  • sunflower oil

Mix cornmeal and water until dough is pliable and moist, not sticky or wet. You may need to add more cornmeal or more water to get the right texture. 

Shape dough into 6 balls. 

Flatten balls with hands, rolling pin or tortilla press between sheets of waxed paper. 

Cook on a lightly oiled pan over medium heat until browned, about 4 minutes on each side.



You can make the beans earlier in the day or up to a few days beforehand.  Remove kombu, stir in salt and let cool for an hour if not using immediately and store beans in their cooking liquid, covered in the refrigerator. While not traditional, the kombu adds a nice savory note. The kombu will expand and may disintegrate a bit.

I used Poblano peppers for the chiles, but you can use hotter or milder chiles as you like. The green chile sauce isn't a thin sauce or even a chunky salsa - it's a pretty rough chop.

Blue corn tortillas are trickier than yellow corn tortillas - the dough goes from too wet to too dry very quickly when adding extra cornmeal and the pressed, uncooked dough is prone to cracking. They're very delicate, so take your time and don't worry if you mess the first few up. I certainly did!

Recipes, some slightly adapted, from Hopi Cookery by Juanita Tiger Kavena.

Hopi pinto beans with green chile sauce and blue corn tortillas

Old New World: Reconstructed Aztec xitomatl and tlaolli stew

reconstructed Aztec xitomatl and tlaolli stew

I love this passage on the naming of tomatoes in Nahuatl (the Aztec language) from the Florentine Codex:

"...the tomato seller (Tomanomacac)  sells large tomatoes (xitomatl), small tomatoes (miltomatl), leaf tomatoes (Izoatomatl), thin tomatoes (xaltomatl), large serpent tomatoes (coaxitotomatl), nipple-shaped tomatoes (chichioalxitomatl), serpent tomatoes (Coatomatl). He also sells coyote tomatoes (coiotomatl), sand tomatoes (tomapitaoac), those which are yellow, very yellow, quite yellow, red, very red, quite ruddy, ruddy, bright red, reddish, rosy dawn colored."

I have no idea what all these tomatoes could possibly be, but what a marvelous market! Between this passage and encountering several recipes for tomato and corn (tlaolli) stew that had some obvious post-contact influences such as cream I decided to try my hand at reconstructing what an Aztec tomato and corn stew might have looked like.  I would have loved to have made a serpent tomato stew, but it was large tomatoes that I had on hand.

large tomatoes

reconstructed Aztec xitomatl and tlaolli stew

  • 1 sweet red chile
  • 1 green chile, like a Poblano
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 4 large tomatoes
  • 2 ears corn cut off the cob (about 2 cups) 
  • 4 cups of water
  • 1/4 cup chopped epazote

Blacken your chiles - this can be done in advance, either on a burner, in the oven or on a grill. Let them cool, remove the blackened skin and deseed and chop them into bite-sized pieces. Roasting the corn can be done in advance as well, also in the oven or on a grill. Let cool and cut off the cob.

Heat a pot over medium heat and add the garlic. Sear for about a minute, stirring constantly, then add chiles, tomatoes and corn. Bring to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes. Add the water, bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 30 more minutes. Stir in chopped epazote before serving.

Serve with tortillas, called tlaxcali in Nahuatl, and small pan roasted chiles, like Padrons. 



If you can't find epazote, use cilantro or parsley or just leave it out. The soup will still be tasty. 

Recipe adapted from The Mitsitam Cafe Cookbook: Recipes from the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian by Richard Hetzler and Cocina Prehispanica by Ana M. de Benitez.

reconstructed Aztec xitomatl and tlaolli stew, pan-roasted Padron peppers