Steve Sando, in the heart of wine country, has spent a decade divining the complex character of humble dried beans. His business, Rancho Gordo, sells three dozen heirloom legumes, including pinto-like Good Mother Stallards and tiny but meaty tepary beans. "Fresher dried beans take less time to cook," Sando says. "The texture tends to be creamier. A lot of people think cooking beans is a skill, but it's more the quality of the bean that matters." His top cooking tip, thousands of pots later? Save leftover bean broth to poach eggs. --Jenn Garbee