It's here!  My favorite time of year has finally arrived... CSA season!  For anybody who has never participated in Community Supported Agriculture, let me just give my enthusiastic recommendation - DO IT!!!  Not only does it help you pack more fresh, organic, local produce into your diet but it also really gets the creative juices flowing since you have no say in what kind of vegetables you are getting. 

One of the things we got in abundance this week was spinach.  The thing I love about spinach is that it goes well with so many different things.  You can chop it up and throw it in pasta sauce, minestrone or other soups, pesto, or a pot of beans like these simple and tasty Christmas Beans (y'know... 'cause they're green and red!).  The spinach adds lots of good nutrients and beautiful color to the dish, but is also rather unassuming when incorporated into beans, which makes it perfect for people who think they don't like the stuff (heaven forbid!).

I used the absolutely beautiful Red Mexican Heirloom beans that came with our CSA share, but any 'ol red bean will do.  I never pre-soak my beans because I've never found it necessary (and also because Rick Bayless told me not to and if there's any Cabacho I'm going to trust with my beans, it's him!).  Try these beans over cooked brown rice, or just about any other cooked grain you have on hand, and you've got yourself a protein-rich, wholesome, delicious meal that's also nice and filling.  What's not to love?

Christmas Beans
serves about 6

2 cups dried red beans, rinsed well
12 cups water
2 T olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp Mexican oregano
1 T cumin
dash of cayenne
salt and pepper, to taste
4-5 cups chopped spinach (stems removed and washed well)
sliced green onions

In a large pot, cover dried beans with water and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, until beans are tender but not mushy - about an hour.  Drain beans, reserving 2 cups of liquid, and set aside.

In another large pot, add olive oil and cook on medium-high.  Add onions and cook until soft and lightly browned, about 7 minutes.  Add garlic and cook until fragrant, another 30 seconds.  Add beans, reserved bean liquid, and spices and turn the heat up to high.  Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until most of the liquid is absorbed.

Just before serving, add chopped spinach and mix well so that the leaves get a chance to gently wilt.  Serve with cooked brown rice, if desired, and top with plenty of sliced green onions.