Photo by Ardo Beltz/Wikimedia Commons
A couple of months ago, Tolosa held its bean fest. Few are the places in this world in which everything stops to celebrate a bean, but Tolosa takes its beans seriously.
And rightly so: the alubias de Tolosa, or Basque black beans, are an extraordinary product. When the bean was recently awarded a denominación de origin and was added to Slow Food's Ark of Taste, little Tolosa was suddenly on the gastronomic map. This has been a bit of a surprise for the town's residents, for whom the bean is simply a part of local culture and daily lifea cozy dish your grandmother might make on a chilly day.
Above and beyond all the fuss, the bean is delicious: black and shiny, fading to purple when cooked, buttery and fine-skinned, with a taste very much its own.
Whereas most recipes in the spectrum of Iberian legume cookery require that beans be soaked in water and then cooked with some kind of pig product (ham bone, chorizo, morcilla, ears, snouts...) the alubia de Tolosa is for purists. Locals add the dry beans to cold water in earthenware pots, bring them to a boil, add a bit of olive oil, and leave them to simmer for about three hours. The only tolerated deviations from this orthodoxy are some onion or a bay leaf. No spices, no tomatoes, and usually no meat. Just beans.