Go Soak Some Beans

“Soak some dry beans now or as soon as you get home,” advised Cal Peternell ,chef at the famous Chez Panisse restaurant, in his delightful and useful new book Twelve Recipes (William Morrow, 2014). Doing so, he promised, would give me a feeling of accomplishment for the next 12 hours. And he was right, especially since the package of pinto beans I soaked had been languishing in the cabinet for months if not years, and preyed on my mind each time I opened the door.

It took only moments to pick over 2-1/2 cups of beans (cooked yield: about six cups) discarding any organic debris or stones masquerading as beans. (I actually found a real stone this time.) Then, I briefly rinsed them, put them into a large bowl with plenty of water and left them on the counter overnight. The next morning, I awoke with the wonderful realization that I’d already gotten dinner started.

Completing the process was quick and the cooking did not demand my constant attention. After draining the beans, I put them into a big pot, covered them in fresh water by about two inches and added whatever aromatic vegetables I had on hand ( a few celery stalks and carrots chopped in large chunks, an onion peeled and halved), some parsley stems, a garlic clove and a bay leaf.

Peternell suggested salting the beans before cooking but I did not, partly for health reasons. Most experts warn that salting beans at this stage can toughen them.

I brought the water to a boil, lowered it to simmer, stirred occasionally and after about 40 minutes began testing for doneness by sampling several beans from different parts of the pot. They are ready when the skin is still firm but the center is creamy. Then I reserved some cooking liquid and discarded the aromatics and herbs. I might have eaten the beans just that way, drizzled with good olive oil and sprinkled with salt, or kept them for up to three days in the fridge and used them in a variety of recipes.

Instead, I combined them and some of their cooking liquid with some carrots, onions, minced garlic and diced tomato that had been sautéed in olive oil. Truth be told, they were better the following day, when I’d added more garlic, some cumin and a dash of Allepo pepper and reduced their cooking liquid to intensify its flavor.

One caution: Peternell points out that old beans may cook unevenly. They’re still good in soup, but he recommends looking for a local source for fresh beans or ordering online from a reputable company. These are two he suggested:

www.ranchogordo.com

www.purcellmountainfarms.com

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *