It’s hot in Portland, Oregon, very hot, this week. Every summer (earlier this year than usual!) I have moments where I’d rather not be in the kitchen from 5-7 pm. Much of the year I’m happy to be but not when it’s really hot. What does this have to do with beans?
I typically put a big bowl of dry beans out to soak in the evening (I do this year-round) and then in the morning before I get breakfast and school lunch ready I drain the beans, cover with fresh water, add a few aromatics and turn them on to cook. By the time we head out the door for school the beans are done (more details below). And that means I have the base of many a meal cooked before it begins to get truly warm in my kitchen.
Those beans then turn into quesadillas or tacos of all kinds; salads, beans and rice (the rice often having been cooked at some earlier time to and just needing to be reheated), quick chili, soups and dips. Yes, there’s some cooking involved to make them meal worthy but it’s pretty simple and when you have home-cooked beans and their attendant flavorful broth much of the work is done. There are many more bean recipe on the Seasonal Recipe Collection!
So, the challenge is to cook a pot of beans, a new kind maybe, just for fun and tell us about in a comment here. Let’s savor the simplicity, flavor and flexibility of beans in the summer!
The two most important things you can do to get hooked on cooking your own dry beans are:
1) Cook a lot of beans at once since they freeze so well, once cooked and covered in their cooking liquid. That way you have them on hand for quick meals when you’re short on time–just try to remember to put them out to thaw on the counter in the morning or the night before.
2) Let the beans cool in their cooking liquid for at least 1-2 hours. This vastly improves their flavor and texture. You do not need to refrigerate them while they’re cooling. Just leave them in the pot on the stove (with burner off) until they’re cool. Then refrigerate what you think you’ll use up in 5 days and freeze the rest. Keep as much of the cooking liquid as you can–it’s wonderful in soups, as a broth on its own, to loosen up beans when making a spread or refried beans, etc. and it also protects them in the freezer.
Place dry beans in a bowl covered by about 4 inches of cold water. Soak over night or 6-8 hours. Drain beans.
Place soaked beans in a large pot and cover with cold water by several inches. Add a couple of whole, peeled garlic cloves, a bay leaf and a chunk of peeled onion. Bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer and let cook covered until the beans are tender, stirring occasionally (this helps prevent some beans from softening before others.) I add salt towards the end of the cooking time and when you do add salt, be generous, as in at least 1 teaspoon sea salt for every 1 1/2 cups or so of dried beans. They will likely need more still. The time it takes for the beans to cook will vary depending on the kind/size of bean and the freshness of the dried beans. Pinto and borlotti types typically take about 30-35 minutes, smaller white and black beans as little as 20-25. Let beans cool in their liquid (see above) and then use, freeze, etc. If you’re freezing some, fill your container with the beans and then ladle in the cooking liquid until the beans are covered. Cooked beans also keep in the fridge for 5-6 days and for several months in the freezer.