Monday, February 2, 2009
Day 2: Cooking Basic Beans
Now, take your soaked beans and follow four basic steps for fully-cooked, delicious, ready-to-use beans :
1. Put them in a large pot with water to cover. For extra flavor, add a bay leaf or a few peppercorns or a few whole cloves of garlic to the pot: just whatever herbs or aromatics you have on hand. (But no squirrels, please. Save that for when the recession really deepens.)
2. Bring the pot to a boil over high heat, skimming any foam off the top. (The foam is a result of water-soluble proteins from the beans and is allegedly bitter, but I think it's mostly unattractive. Skimming is not mandatory, though.) Reduce heat to a simmer and partially cover the pot.
3. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the beans are tender. (For an excellent chart of cooking times by bean-type, go here.) Part-way through cooking, be sure to add 2 teaspoons of salt per pound of beans. (It's an old wives' tale that that you shouldn't salt beans during cooking; be sure to use salt. They will still soften and taste approximately four hundred times better. That said, let it be know that this blog still appreciates and endorses old wives.)
4. If planning on using right away in a recipe that calls for cooked or canned beans, just drain, pick out the spices, and use immediately. Otherwise, you can store these beans in their cooking liquid for up to 3 day in the fridge or 3 months in the freezer. To minimize the slavish farmwifery of it all, just cook up a couple pounds of a basic bean and freeze them in small containers for quick meal prep.
Now, on to the recipes!