Pot of Beans Recipe
by Kim Becker
Beans are the consummate superfood. On average, they are made up of 21 percent protein, 77 percent complex carbohydrates (the kind that deliver a slow and steady energy) and only a few percent fat. They are also an excellent source of fiber. They’re cheap and versatile, come in a variety of textures and are packed with more nutrients per gram than any other food on Earth.
Serve them on their own, with rice or another grain, toss them into salads or add them into tacos or burritos. Canned beans are a fast and easy start to a satisfying healthy meal, but if you’ve got some time to keep watch over a simmering pot, you’re on your way to a culinary treat.
There is no one single method of cooking beans. At its most basic, you want to simmer the pot until the beans are soft. To reduce cooking time and help them cook more evenly, the morning or night before you plan to cook them, soak the beans. After rinsing in lots of cool water and checking for small debris, cover with a few inches of cool water and leave them on the counter. You can still cook the beans if you didn’t soak them, just know that it will take a bit longer for them to cook.
Two to three hours before you plan to serve them, transfer the beans and their soaking water to a large pot. The beans will have expanded, so make sure they are covered by at least two inches of water, maybe even a bit more. I usually like the simplicity of just the beans themselves, but sometimes I am inclined to add a simple mix of onion and celery (and sometimes carrot) diced and sautéed in olive oil with a couple cloves of crushed garlic. If using, add this mixture to the beans at this point and give them good stir. Over medium-high heat, bring them to a hard boil. Keep the beans at a boil for about ten to fifteen minutes and then reduce to a gentle simmer, before covering. Keep the lid ajar to help control the heat and allow evaporation. The bean broth will be better if it’s had a chance to breathe and evaporate a little.
When the beans have softened, go ahead and salt them. Go easy as it takes awhile for the beans to absorb the salt. I start with one and a half teaspoons of salt and a teaspoon of pepper per one pound of beans. You can always add more later.
If the bean-cooking water starts to get low, always add hot water from a tea kettle. Many believe that cold water added to cooking beans will harden them. At the very least, it will make the cooking take that much longer to bring them back to a simmer.
You’ll most likely know when they are done by the incredible bean aroma coming from the kitchen. I usually scoop a few out and do a taste test to make sure they are cooked well and properly seasoned.
Bean cooking is really that simple. Keep in mind the only absolute when it comes to cooking a pot of beans is it is difficult to mess it up.
February 21, 2022