Monday, September 28, 2009

Staple: Cooked Beans

Part of the idea of the Ben Cooks Everything project is to see what's worth making from scratch. Some things, I've found, are totally worth it, save you money and store in the freezer for reheating at the perfect time (chicken stock, pesto, tomato sauce). Some of them aren't worth it at all, I've always thought.


Take beans. Canned beans are fine! Bittman himself has said so, and every bean recipe in the book can work either with cooked-from-scratch beans or canned beans.

They're certainly cheaper than canned beans--a pound of uncooked black beans cost me $1.86 and yielded 4 cups of cooked beans. And if you store them with some of the cooking liquid, they freeze and keep just as well as canned, but presumably, they taste better. I don't know, I've never cooked my own.

To cook them, Bittman provides three methods: Quick-Soak (boil, turn off heat, let soak 2 hrs, return to heat, simmer til done), No-Soak (boil then simmer, til done), and Long-Soak (soak in cold water for 6-12 hrs, drain, simmer til done). Regardless of the method you use, the type of bean makes the cooking time vary greatly. I opted for Quick-Soak, Bittman's favorite: place beans in water to cover, bring water to a boil, turn the heat off, let sit covered for 2 hours. This is the soak part of the recipe (I suppose the idea of "quick" is relative). Then you add a bit of salt, pepper, and let the beans simmer, tasting every 15 minutes until they are done. I also added a bit of stock to the cooking liquid as the water evaporated, after one of Bittman's suggestions. It took over 2 hours for the beans to finish cooking, but most of them went into the freezer with cooking liquid to cover so that they'll be ready to go when I need them down the line.

So, what does everyone think I should do with the beans now that they're done?

P.S. Bittman's list of 5 beans to always keep on hand (p. 413): white beans, black beans, pinto/kidney beans, chickpeas and lentils.

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