Cooking with Dried Beans
This is an extensive post. You'll find three videos: Cooking with Dried Beans, Clean Bean Salad (Beans with Your Best Olive Oil - vegan, vegetarian, dairy-free, nut-free), and a Warm Bean & Bacon Salad.
Cooking with Dried Beans
Start with soaking the beans, either letting them sit overnight in water or use a quick soak method which I’ll go over later.
I’m using a recipe from Deborah Madison’s "The New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone" to give them some flavor before using the beans in a recipe.
In this video, I used Great Northern Beans, but the method can be used on any type. I find that white beans, like Navy, small white beans, or Great Northern beans have the best flavor and are easiest to use in most recipes.
Beans with Aromatics
1 cup beans, cleaned, rinsed, and soaked
2 bay leaves
1 small onion, quartered
several parsley sprigs
1 large clove garlic, sliced
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 piece kombu or pinch asafetida, optional
1.5 teaspoons sea salt
Drain your soaked beans and cover them with 6 cups of fresh water and bring to a boil. Boil, uncovered for 10 minutes. Skim off any foam. Lower the heat, and add bay leaves, garlic, olive oil, onion, and parsley. I didn’t have onions or parsley on hand, so you don’t see them in the video. Also, if you have kombu seaweed, add a 6-inch piece to the pot. Do - not - add - any - salt - yet.
Let this simmer until the beans are partially tender which could be 30 minutes to an hour. It depends on how old or fresh your beans are. So taste a bean, check out the tenderness and NOW add salt and continue cooking until the beans are tender but not mushy.
For me, after 30 minutes, my beans are very tender, almost mushy. So I went ahead and added the salt and turned off heat. Let them cool in the broth. Once your beans reach the tender-but-not-mushy state, do the same thing - turn off the heat and let them cool in their broth.
Remove all the other ingredients, reserve the broth if you want, and use the beans however you like!
I cooked another batch of beans slightly differently. I used Mark Bittman’s "How to Cook Everything Vegetarian" for this other method, which takes a little longer but needs less attention, so it may be easier.
Put the beans in a large pot with a tight-fitting lid and cover with cold water by 2 to 3 inches. Bring to a boil and boil the beans, uncovered, for about 2 minutes. Cover the pot and turn off the heat. Let the beans soak for about 2 hours.
Taste a bean. If it's tender (it won't be done), add a large pinch of salt and several grinds of black pepper and make sure the beans are covered with about an inch of the soaking water. (If not, add a little water.) If the beans are still raw, don't add salt yet and cover with about 2 inches of water.
Bring the pot to a boil, then reduce the heat so that the beans bubble gently. Partially cover and cook, stirring occasionally, checking the beans for doneness every 10 or 15 minutes, and adding a little more water if necessary. If you haven't added salt yet, add it when the beans are just turning tender. Stop cooking when the beans are done the way you like them, taste and adjust the seasoning, and use immediately or store.
You can add aromatics to the beans in this method, just like the first method demoed.
Between these two methods, I found that my beans very quickly reached nearly mushy with the first method, so I immediately used them in a cold salad.
Keep an eye on them so they don't get too tender or turn mushy.
The second method, where they sat in hot water for 2 hours, left them a little al dente, which is also fine for salads and even better for cooking them, say with a little bacon.
Beans with Your Best Olive Oil
From Deborah Madison in "The New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone"
Makes 2.5 cups
Ingredients: Beans with Aromatics (https://youtu.be/cpL8Xhabc5w)
1 large shallot, finely diced, or 3 green onions, including a little green, thinly sliced*
1 small clove garlic, minced
3 tablespoons best olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped parsley (https://youtu.be/ysU5uPUf4-I)
seat salt & freshly milled pepper
Put the warm beans in a bowl and add the shallot, garlic, olive oil, and parsley. Turn them gently with a large rubber scraper so as not to break them up. Taste and season with salt if needed and freshly milled pepper. Serve with the lemon wedges.
**Also, great with pesto!
As you can see, I used chives instead of shallots or green onions. And I used pre-chopped parsley preserved in olive oil. It easily stirs right in.
I then served it with a fresh tomato sandwich. It was every summer flavor on my plate!
This is a wonderful vegan dish without being obviously vegan. Just clean, fresh ingredients.
Warm Bean & Bacon Salad by Jacques Pepin
2 cups dried navy or other small white bean
8 ounces slab bacon (lardons) or pancetta, cut into half-inch pieces
1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
6 garlic cloves, crushed and chopped (about 1.5 tablespoons)
.5 cup chopped fresh parsley
1.5 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1.5 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
.5 teaspoon salt
Cook dried beans (see below). Let cool to lukewarm.
Place the bacon in a saucepan and saute over low heat, covered, for about 8 minutes, until it has rendered much of its fat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring, for about 5 seconds. Add the contents of the saucepan, fat and all to the beans, then add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Tips for Cooking with Dried Beans
The most wanted information about beans is how to make them more digestible and there are a few things you can do about that. But mostly, it depends on the individual and how much fiber you’re used to digesting.
Overall though, a well-cooked bean is easy to digest. Both soaking and parboiling help eliminate the sugars that cause indigestion, so do both steps when cooking beans. This means soaking the beans for at least 4 hours, if not 8 to 12 hours. Then draining them, and adding clean water about 3 inches above the beans in a large pot. Then boil them vigorously for 5-10 minutes. They won’t be done or even tender at that point, but you’ve taken steps to make them more digestible.
You can also add a few ingredients that bean-eating cultures have been doing for centuries. Epazote, asafetida, or kelp, specifically, kombu. It’s worth noting that beans almost always cook well in a pressure cooker. Slow cookers are great for beans, although they do tend to break the beans, so only use it on cheap beans and always on low.
Now for storing your cooked beans - because they can take a couple hours, it is well worth your effort to cook a double or triple batch and then freeze them in smaller, usable batches. When storing in the freezer and the frig, use their cooking liquid. If they are stored in their broth, they can last up to 5 days in the frig and up to 6 months in the freezer.
When removing beans from the freezer, you can let them thaw in the frig for 24 hours before using them. Or take the entire frozen block and place it in a pot. Let it cook, covered, over low medium-low heat with a little extra water. They should be done in about 30 minutes.
And about soaking - the length of time depends on the age of the beans. You can tell how old they are by how brittle and broken they are. Soak them for a minimum of 4 hours. A long soak is 8-12 hours. If you work a normal 9-5 job , it may be easiest to start soaking in the morning, then cook them when you get home. Soaking also helps to sort debris, dirt, and bad beans from the bunch. You should also take a minute to sort the beans before adding the water to get any of that stuff out.
One point that’s really important and maybe not stressed enough is the timing of adding the salt. Do not salt at the beginning. Adding salt will hinder the cooking of the beans. Only add salt once the beans are tender, which is usually about an hour into cooking.