As a rule, most dried beans benefit from a soak before you cook them. However, my new slow cooker makes it easy to prepare bean dishes on days when I've forgotten, or just don't have time for, the soaking step. This recipe, adapted from James McNair’s Favorites, serves 6-8.
2 cups dry kidney beans, rinsed
1-1/2 tsp cumin seed
1-2 whole ancho, guajillo, pasilla or other large dried mild to medium-hot chiles, stems and seeds discarded, torn into small pieces
2 Tbsp minced fresh oregano, or 2 tsp crumbled dried oregano
1/4 cup canola oil
1-1/2 cups chopped yellow onion
1 Tbsp minced fresh jalapeño or serrano chile
1 tsp minced garlic
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
2 cups peeled, seeded, drained and chopped ripe or canned tomato
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1-3/4 lbs butternut or other winter squash, peeled, seeded, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 cups thawed frozen corn kernels
1/2 cup fresh cilantro or flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup pine nuts
Fresh cilantro or parsley sprigs for garnish
Drain beans, and place in a slow cooker. Cover with water by one inch. Cook on low for 6 hours.
In a small skillet, combine cumin seed, torn dried chiles and oregano. Place over medium heat and toast, shaking the pan or stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Do not allow to burn. Pour onto a plate to cool, then transfer to a spice grinder or heavy mortar with pestle and grind to a fine powder. Set aside.
In a sauté pan or heavy pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until soft but not browned, 5 minutes. Add jalapeño, garlic, cinnamon, and the ground spice mixture, and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomato and 1/2 cup of stock or broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Add to the slow cooker with the beans. Add 1 cup of remaining broth, squash, and corn. Cook on low for 4 hours. Stir once each hour, and if the stew needs more liquid, add some of the remaining broth. A few minutes before serving, stir in the chopped cilantro or parsley.
Meanwhile, toast the pine nuts in a dry skillet until slightly brown and fragrant. To serve, ladle the stew into warmed shallow bowls, sprinkle with pine nuts, and garnish with herb sprigs.