Monday, 15 February 2010

comfort food -- beans edition

so during the long snow-break, cheryl and i made lots of food. and cheryl CRACKED THE CODE to making beans.

i bought all these beans from rancho gordo, but had never really made them right . . . cheryl took the time to do her research and found these instructions

There is not one single method of cooking beans. At its most basic, you want to simmer the pot until the beans are soft. Soaking can speed up the process and vegetables or stock will make them more flavorful. It's really that simple.

Normally on a bean cooking day (which frankly is everyday at Rancho Gordo), I put the beans to soak in the morning, after rinsing in lots of cool water and checking for small debris. I cover the beans by about an inch or so.

If you haven't soaked, don't fret. Go ahead and cook them, knowing it will take a bit longer.

Heirloom and Heritage varieties don't need a lot of fussing if they are used fresh, which I'd define as within two years. You can use a ham bone, chicken stock or as I prefer, simply a few savory vegetables.

A classic mirepoix is a mix of onion, celery and carrot diced fine and sautéed in some kind of fat, often olive oil. A crushed clove of garlic doesn't hurt. If I'm cooking Mexican or Southwestern, I will sauté just onion and garlic in mild bacon drippings or even freshly rendered lard.

Add the beans and their soaking water to a large pot. You have been told before to change the water and rinse the beans. The thinking now is that vitamins and flavor can leech out of the beans into the soaking water you are throwing down the sink. There is no scientific evidence that changing the water cuts down on the gas.

The beans will have expanded, so make sure they are still covered by at least an inch, maybe a bit more. Add the sautéed vegetables and give a good stir. Raise your heat to medium high and bring to a hard boil.

Keep the beans at a boil for about five minutes and then reduce them to a gentle simmer, then cover. I like to see how low I can go and still get the occasional simmering bubble. When the beans are almost ready, the aroma will be heady. They won't smell so much like the vegetables you've cooked but the beans themselves. At this point. I'd go ahead and salt them. Go easy as it takes awhile for the beans to absorb the salt. If you want to add tomatoes or acids like lime or vinegar, wait until the beans are cooked through.

If the bean water starts to get low, always add hot water from a tea kettle. The tap produces disgusting water for food.

So you're done! Once you've mastered this method, go ahead and try some different techniques. Your bean friends will swear by this or that method and you should take their advice, keeping in mind there are few absolutes when it comes to cooking beans, only that is very hard work to mess up a pot of beans.

and this video also helped: victory will soon be yours!

then she made this out of the beans! YUMMY

Easy Meal-in-a-Bowl Pesto, Pasta and Bean Soup

The Washington Post, February 1, 2010

Comfort Food

  • Course: Soup


Fresh basil and chives aren't always on hand this time of year, but if you're lucky enough to have them, coarsely chop a handful and toss them in at the end of cooking. They'll lend a garden fresh flavor that's downright irresistible in the dead of winter. Of course, if you've got fresh basil you can also make your own pesto. Yes, the homemade is better than store-bought, but I find the commercial product a convenient and acceptable alternative.

For a slightly meatier soup, stir in about 1/2 cup diced ham or roasted chicken meat when you add the tomatoes and their juices.

MAKE AHEAD: Refrigerate the cooled soup in an airtight container for 3 or 4 days. Add broth or water as needed when you reheat the soup.

4 to 6 generous servings


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup peeled and chopped carrot, celery or onion (or a combination)
  • 4 to 5 cups low-sodium chicken broth (may substitute vegetable broth)
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme or dried marjoram
  • 1/2 cup 1 1/2-inch-long pieces broken-up dried vermicelli or other similar thin pasta
  • Half a 6-ounce bag fresh, ready-to-use baby spinach leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 1 14- to 15-ounce can white cannellini beans or great northern beans, rinsed and well drained
  • 1/4 cup store-bought basil pesto, or more to taste
  • 1 15-ounce can diced garlic- and basil-seasoned tomatoes or regular canned diced tomatoes, including their juices
  • Generous handful basil leaves or chives, coarsely chopped (optional)
  • Water, as needed
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper


Combine the oil and chopped vegetables in a 5- to 6-quart pot over medium heat; stir to coat. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, then add 4 cups of the broth and the dried thyme or marjoram.

Increase the heat to high and bring to a rolling boil. Add the pasta and cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until barely al dente.

Add the spinach, beans, pesto, tomatoes and their juices; mix well, then reduce the heat to medium (a gentle boil). Cook for 5 minutes to blend the flavors. If desired, add the basil or chives; cook for 1 minute, stirring. Use the remaining cup of broth or water to thin the soup to the desired consistency. Season with salt, pepper and additional basil pesto to taste.

Divide among individual bowls; serve hot.

i made southern french beans:

i cooked the beans for an hour with a slice of bacon.
while they were simmering, i put about 4 garlic cloves in a very small bowl with olive oil that hit the middle of the cloves. then i smashed the garlic. cut up 3 dried hot chili peppers into the oil and let the oil infuse for the entirety of the time the beans cooked.

then i drained the beans. poured the infused oil and stuff over the beans and cut up fresh oregano over the top and tossed. we ate it with freshly backed bread.


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