Ruchikala (The Art of Taste)

Indian Fusion Cuisine in Portland and Tucson

Tepary Dreams


Spend a couple months in the Pacific Northwest as a native Tucsonan and you’ll start to feel homesick real hard, real fast.  I never thought I would adjust to the lack of sun. I mean, In Tucson the sun is the Sun!  It’s an ever-present entity, a skybound fireball that dries out windshield wipers and cracks your car’s tires.  It always seemed odd to me that such vibrant, bright-eyed and bushy-mustached twenty somethings can survive in a city like Portland, where the sun gets sent into exodus more times than not.

Let it be told how the Wizard of Vapor banished our hero...for now... "bE gONE" -  Brandon Rawls

Let it be told how the Wizard of Vapor banished our hero…for now…

…But I have to say, I find myself adjusting quite well with this transition. So well, in fact, if you stalk me throughout my day you might find me on the phone (at a party or pretending to work at a coffee shop) bragging about how well my body has adjusted to the sudden drastic change in climate.

You know it’s amazing, I’m actually adjusting quite well.”

Or perhaps blatantly lying about the grueling temperatures I’ve been able to withstand

It’s really not that bad, I’ve even been running in 30 degree weather.”

Sure, maybe that 30 degree day was a 45 degree day… and maybe I cried like a the baby and sat in the shower for an hour an half after desperately hoping to defrost, but the fact remains, that I have not died. 

I can’t lie; I love the sun. I love Tucson.  I mean I really *love* Tucson.  Like love tucson in the summer,  kind of “love Tucson”

Along with staying awake during the day, energy maintenance, and general overall comfort, one of the hardest things to adjust to since the absence of the sun in my life has been food. That is to say, sun-kissed food.  Follow my roots to South India – we’re people of the sun!

Sun. Kissed. Food.

One of such sun-kissed staples I’ve been especially missing as of late is the tepary bean.  Lucky for me I was able to pack a near Y2K-sized rationing of these legumes on my way up to the PNW.  These drought-resistant beans have been grown and cultivated by the Tohono O’odham for hundreds of years and I’ve had the pleasure of indulging in these little guys in the most delightful of ways.

One my favorite ways to prepare tepary beans is in a homey, refried bean style that brings me right back to my favorite south taquerias on South Sixth Avenue.  

Over the past few years I’ve taken to adding a few warming Punjabi spices to the mix.

 Served over homemade corn tortillas with a fresh tomatillo salsa or mole verde, this tepary dish hits all the right notes.


These beans are quite versatile, though they may be initially off-putting to some as they are are a little more toothsome and can take a little longer to soften up.  I suggest cooking them a little longer than traditional beans to make them a little more palatable and easier to digest. To prepare these beans for savory recipes follow the instructions here:


1 recipe cooked brown tepary beans
1 bay leaves
1 oz piece of ginger (finely grated on a microplane or minced
4 garlic cloves (finely grated on a microplane or minced)
3 roma tomatoes
¼ habanero (minced, optional)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 ½ tablespoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon cinnamon
⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ cup of cream (milk or coconut milk may be substituted)
¼ cup of minced cilantro

1) Add tomatoes to a blender and puree to a liquid.  You can add ⅓ cup of water to the mix to get it going, if needed. Set aside.

2) Add 1 tablespoon of oil to a medium to large skillet skillet on medium-low heat.  Add whole cumin seeds and allow them to sizzle slightly in the pan for about 30 seconds, until they just start to color. Add ginger, garlic, and the bay leaf, and toss around into the oil to form a paste.

Add turmeric and cook for 1-2 minutes, taking care to move the paste and scrape it from the pan to ensure it doesn’t burn.

3) Add pureed tomatoes, habanero (if using), salt, coriander, ground cumin, cinnamon, and cloves, and cook over medium heat, mixing every once in a while to ensure nothing burns or sticks to the bottom of the pan.  Cook the mixture until it turns into a very thick paste.  

This may take up to 4-5 minutes or longer.  Be patient, you’re developing real flavors here.

4)Add 1 ½ cups of water, and simmer to reduce the mixture to a consistency just slightly more liquidy than you want. Add the tepary beans when the mixture is reduced by about half.

At this point season with salt and pepper to taste. Using the preparation above the beans will be soft enough that they will break down into a refried beans style texture. When the beans cool to serveable temperature they will firm up.

You can always puree half of the beans in the blender if you would like a smoother consistency. If you would like a richer consistency, simmer another extra minute or two and then add cream.  Check for seasoning once more.

Serve with tortillas, salsa, queso fresco, grilled nopalitos, or your favorite grilled meat.

7 comments on “Tepary Dreams

  1. Marvel
    January 20, 2013

    I can’t WAIT to try this…

    • Ruchikala
      January 21, 2013

      Oh man! The crazy thing is when I was immediately trying to write back to you letting you know the best substitute beans, but then I got horribly sidetracked.

      Pintos would work well! These are just a little larger, and you’ll want to break them down some before getting them into the tomato paste mixture.

  2. Tammy
    January 26, 2013

    I love the look of your dish. Wouldn’t have thought to use Indian spices and can totally relate to missing the sun in the PNW.

    • Ruchikala
      February 1, 2013

      Thanks Tammy! When I do my supperclub dinners in Tucson, it’s usually an Indian-Mexican fusion theme. There are so many parallels with Indian and Mexican cuisine. The flavor profiles are very similar and they are both cuisines that appreciate sour and bitter notes.

      The tepary beans are absolutely delicious on their own, but I think they yeild well to spicy warm flavors.

      And would you mind lending me some of that desert sun? I think the yellow ball went missing again.

      • Tammy
        February 1, 2013

        Are you in Portland now?

      • Ruchikala
        February 1, 2013

        yes, but I fly back and forth for clients 🙂

  3. orion xalanda
    January 28, 2013

    Ah!! Beautifully delicious — and such masterful, Culinary art Cuisine (how tempting). . . I am famished!! I believe it is time for lunch — the anticipation continues to grow — and has now preceded that. I cannot wait to see what is for dinner! I truly, deliciously enjoyed your post!!!! I must return. . . .

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This entry was posted on January 15, 2013 by in Recipes.
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