Ah, the humble bean. Is it slowly falling out of the modern vernacular? Have we forgotten what a basic, essential, cheap nutritional powerhouse they are??
If you think you don’t like beans, I would like to put forth the possibility that you haven’t found the right bean for you 🙂 Believe it or not, each type is distinctly different in texture and flavor!
Over the past eight years, I can say I have formed a close relationship with beans. Really gotten to know them better. I used to think black beans and chickpeas were my favorites. I mean, chickpeas are responsible for hummus, after all! And black bean soup, well, I always loved it way before I went vegan.
My current favorite is actually the red kidney bean. The chili superstar. This substantially chewy on the outside, creamy on the inside bean plays a major role in the classic three bean and other cold salads as well. It’s versatile and it’s filling. Did I mention cheap?? Especially if you buy them dried and cook ’em up yourself.
Basic Dried Beans 101
- Start with 1 cup of dried beans. Soak them in water overnight in a covered container in the refrigerator. Add enough water to cover, with an extra inch or two to allow for expansion.
2. Drain beans and add to a saucepan with enough cold water to cover plus another 2 inches or so. The beans will swell a bit as they cook.
3. Bring beans to a slow rolling boil and then reduce to a simmer. See the tiny video clip below for what a proper simmer looks like. Try to moderate the settings to keep this level of heat. Boiling too hard results in tough beans all busted open and ugly. We don’t want that. Be gentle.
4. At this point you want to skim off any foam that rises to the surface. This will rid the cooking liquid of impurities. This is the stage to add seasonings if desired: onion, garlic, cumin, etc. but don’t add any salt yet.
5. Simmer like this with the lid halfway, allowing steam to escape, for about 45 minutes. Give a little stir now and then, making sure all the beans are still fully underwater. If not, add more. Check for doneness by removing a bean and cutting it in half. Chew the bean and see if it is soft enough to eat. If not, check again in 10 minutes. They should be nice and firm, yet tender and soft on the inside, not broken and falling apart.
6. This is where you add the salt to taste. Rule of thumb: stir in enough so the water tastes salty, like a good veggie stock. But don’t overdo it! If you have time, allow the beans to cool in the cooking liquid. This step makes all the difference. The beans will absorb the salt and any seasonings and the flavor will be much improved over simply draining and applying seasoning to the outside.
Now your beans are ready to go anywhere you want to take them. I like to store them in their own liquid, either in the fridge or freezer. You can also drain and freeze them in meal-sized portions, pressing them flat in a ziplock bag. They store really well this way when space is limited.
This method works for most dried beans.