Cooking a pot of beans
Bean are as comforting as they are simple. And sometimes that's the best kind of meal you can prepare for your family.
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Pot of Beans
This "recipe" is from Mark Bittman. Since I've never followed any instructions for cooking beans, I didn't trust myself to describe it properly! He gives lots of options for soaking or not soaking, which is the biggest question people seem to have. The reason for soaking is simply to decrease the cooking time. I do it when I've thought ahead. When I haven't thought ahead, I don't soak. Some people say it decreases the flatulence factor of beans, though I can't say I've found that to be true. If your tummy has trouble with beans, there are at least three remedies. The first is, don't undercook your beans! They won't taste good and they'll be hard for your body to digest. The second is to eat beans more often. Your body will get used to digesting them. And the third is to take an enzyme like Beano.
In Praise of Leftovers
Sarah Murphy-Kangas is a cook, writer, mother, teacher, and group facilitator. She lives with her family in Seattle, Washington. She started her blog, In Praise of Leftovers, as a way to share her kitchen exploits with friends and family and further explore her obsession with food. Her favorite challenge is to make something out of nothing.
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If you buy your beans in bulk at a co-op or other place where they have high turnover in their dry goods, they will be fresher and will cook more quickly. If you buy them in prepackaged and labeled bags at the grocery store, they will likely be older and take longer to cook. They don't go bad or taste worse – they are just more hard.
1 pound dried beans, washed and picked over (any kind but lentils, split peas, or peeled and split beans)
Water, salt, and pepper
Soaking: You can soak your beans overnight if you think of it. Or "quick soak" them by putting the beans in a large pot and covering them with a couple inches of cold water. Bring the beans to a boil and boil for 2 minutes. Cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid and let them soak for 1-2 hours. Or you can not soak them at all. They'll take a bit longer to cook.
Cooking. If you've soaked your beans, drain them, and cover again with 2 inches of cold water. Bring the pot to a boil, then adjust the heat so the beans bubble gently. Partially cover and cook, stirring every now and then, checking the beans for doneness every 20 minutes or so, and adding more water as necessary. Small beans might take as little as 30 minutes and older, larger beans up to 90 minutes.
Seasoning. Add salt and pepper when the beans are just turning tender. Stop cooking when the beans are done the way you like them and taste and adjust the seasoning.
Storing. Here you have a few options. Drain the beans (reserving the liquid separately) to use them as ingredients or salads or other dishes where they need to be dry. Or finish them with one of the ideas below. Or store the beans as is and use with or without the liquid as needed. They will keep in the fridge for days and in the freezer for months.
Adding Flavor. You can add a bay leaf, peppercorns, thyme sprigs, parsley leaves and stems, chili powder, or other herbs and spices. You can sauté chopped onion, carrot, celery or garlic until soft and fragrant and add them in. Or cook your beans with a ham hock, pork chop, beef bone, or sausage. Fish it out after cooking, chop up the meat, and stir it back into the beans.
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