The New York Times claims that you can skip the tedious soaking step when cooking dried beans and still have flavorful beans. I know that I often forget to soak, which means I don’t make beans. I might experiment with skipping the soaking step, although I find it curious that every other recipe is wrong on this score. What do you think?
Tag Archives: Beans
For me, refried beans are one of those ubiquitous Mexican sides that I can take or leave. I like to make them sometimes when I want a quick, meatless burrito filling, but they often turn out overly dry and unexciting.
The recipe for refried beans in The Splendid Table’s How to Eat Supper elevates refried beans a bit, by adding cinnamon and cloves for spice, and by swirling in a couple of pats of butter at the end for added richness. I believe it’s the butter that really makes the difference, giving the beans a touch of needed fat for moistness. I like to use these beans as a burrito filling, so I’ve adjusted the recipe somewhat so that they aren’t too soupy. If you use a bit more water, you can also eat them out of a bowl, mixed with rice and garnished with your favorite Southwestern fixings.
Time to make: ~25 minutes.
- Olive oil
- 1 large onion, diced
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 4 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 fresh jalapeno, seeded and chopped
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 14-ounce can whole tomatoes, drained
- 2 15-ounce cans red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
- ½-1½ cups water (Start with the smallest amount and add more as needed, depending on how you plan to serve the beans.)
- 2 tablespoons butter
1. Generously film the bottom of a 10-inch skillet with olive oil, and heat over medium-high heat. Saute the onions with salt and pepper to taste until they begin to soften, about 3 minutes.
2. Add the garlic, jalapeno, cinnamon and cloves, and cook about 1 minute, taking care not to burn the spices. Add the tomatoes, crushing them as they go into the pan. Saute for another minute.
3. Stir in the beans and water. Bing to a fast simmer, crushing the beans with a potato masher as they cook. Simmer until the beans are thick, about 10 minutes. Blend in the butter.
To make burritos, spoon some beans into a tortilla and top with salsa and grated cheese. First fold the tortilla in from the bottom, then fold over one side, and roll in from the other side. Bake the burritos at 400 degrees for 10 minutes, or until warmed through. Top the burritos with more salsa and cheese before baking for enchilada-style, or garnish after baking with shredded lettuce and sour cream for burrito-style.
The finished beans hold in the refrigerator for 5 days; add liquid as needed when reheating.
Has anyone tried to buy pine nuts lately? The cost is ridiculous (even more so than usual)! Apparently, there’s a worldwide shortage of them. At least, that’s what I heard. I like pine nuts, but not that much, thank you.
Anyway, last night’s dinner was simple, healthy, quick and good. While I was cooking the rigatoni, I sauteed a little slivered garlic in olive oil. I added a can of cannellini (drained and rinsed, natch), and seasoned it with some salt, pepper and Italian herbs. I let that heat through and then dumped in a bunch of trimmed, chopped spinach. I stirred it around until the spinach had wilted. Off the heat, I squirted over a little lemon juice. Pine nuts would have gone great in this dish, but alas, I had none, so I crumbled in some Asiago cheese instead. That worked great too. I served it over the cooked rigatoni.
When I read food blogs and articles these days, I see a lot of complaining about how expensive and time-consuming it is to eat healthy or eat vegetarian. I have not personally found this to be the case. Last night’s dinner is a great example. It took less than 15 minutes to make (not counting the time to bring the pasta water to a boil, which I spent reading) and was completely vegetarian. The canned beans were probably the most expensive thing in the dish ($1.99). I’m sure the entire dish, which could easily serve 4 people, cost less than a trip to McDonald’s for the same number of people.
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I am still trying to use up leftover bits of various things, and what better way to do that than to make burritos? With the burritos I made last night, I killed a half bag of new potatoes, a half can of beans, half an avocado, a quarter block of cheese and a few lonely romaine leaves. And they were quite tasty.
There’s really nothing to making burritos. Usually, I heat up the filling (steamed potatoes and canned beans, in this case) with some spicy seasonings. I roll the filling up in tortillas with some cheese and salsa. I bought prepared salsa because — let’s face it — making salsa in the dead of winter is a losing prospect. Instead of going for the gourmet brand, I bought the cheaper Herdez salsa (medium) and thought it was quite tasty. For a snack, I’ll probably bake some tortilla chips and eat the rest of it.
Roll up the burritos, sprinkle them with more cheese and salsa, and heat at 350 degrees until melty. Garnish with any uncooked things. I had shredded lettuce and diced avocado. Tasty, healthy and totally vegetarian. No recipe required.
Update: Please note that dried beans cooked in the slow cooker have a potential toxicity, as explained here. To be safe, you need to boil beans for 10 minutes. Thanks to a commenter for pointing this out, as I wasn’t aware of this potential risk!
I have been wanting to cook more of my own beans lately. Mark Bittman’s book Food Matters inspired me, with his descriptions of how nutritious and tasty beans can be when you cook them yourself. Dried beans are supposed to have a better flavor and texture than canned beans, and you can control the salt content. They’re much more economical, too. In his book, Bittman describes how to freeze cooked beans, and with the little freezer out in the garage, I have no excuses.
Well, I have one. It just seemed so time-consuming to cook dried beans, between soaking them and then boiling them for several hours. I never seemed to get around to it.
So I started researching how to use my slow cooker to cook the beans. With the slow cooker, I figured I could either let them cook overnight or during the day even if I had to leave the house. It turns out that it is not at all difficult to cook dried beans in the slow cooker. In fact, it’s not that much different than cooking them on the stovetop, except you don’t have to monitor them as much.
Here’s the method:
- Rinse the beans and pick over them for stones.
- Soak the beans in a good amount of cold water in the refrigerator for several hours. I let them soak all day, with the intention of cooking them overnight.
- Drain the beans and rinse again. The water was fairly dirty, so I do think the soaking step is necessary.
- Put the beans in the slow cooker with plenty of fresh, cold water to cover by at least an inch.
- Cook on low for 8 hours. I let mine cook while I slept. I didn’t add any seasoning because I figured I would season them when I used them in the final dish. The beans turned out tender but not mushy, and even without seasoning, they were very tasty, so I think it is true that dried beans taste better than canned.
Some notes: 1 cup of dried beans results in approximately 2-3 cups of cooked beans, depending on the type of bean.
I used cannellini beans, which are my favorite type of bean and very versatile. They are often used in Italian cooking, and they go well in soups, salads, dips, pasta dishes and with sausage, so I figured I would get a lot of mileage out of a batch. Different kinds of beans may require different cooking times, and you also have to take into consideration the dish that the beans are destined for. For instance, you may want to stop the cooking after about 5-6 hours if the beans are then going into a long-cooking soup or chili, where they will get the chance to cook more. Tougher beans may need up to 12 hours to cook. I found that 8 hours resulted in a very tender bean, so I may shorten the cooking time to 7 hours for a firmer result. Ideally, I should start tasting the beans every half-hour or so after 5-6 hours and keep notes on the best cooking times for different kinds of beans. Of course, this strategy doesn’t work when cooking the beans overnight, but 8 hours seems like a safe cooking time in most cases.
Store the beans in their own liquid in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. I found that the cooked beans actually kept longer than leftover canned beans in the fridge. To freeze, divide into portions, such as 1 or 2 cups. Freeze in freezer bags with their cooking liquid, pressing out as much air as possible.
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I have been making croquettes — or little fried cakes — for a long time now. They are always popular, and for me they are comfort food. I usually make them with mashed potatoes or beans. It didn’t occur to me that I could use another vegetable until I found Mark Bittman’s recipe for spinach croquettes. But then I realized that the basic croquette is a versatile recipe that can be adapted quite freely. And since it requires cooked vegetables, it is the perfect vehicle for using up leftovers.
Last night I made croquettes with leftover cooked kale. They were surprisingly good, and even the baby ate three small ones. I would also try making them with other greens, artichoke hearts, broccoli, carrots, corn, peas, sweet potatoes or winter squash.
I served them dry, though, which I would amend for next time. Croquettes really need some kind of sauce to be complete. My husband suggested hollandaise sauce, which would be quite decadent and delicious. But even something as simple as a pesto, salsa or aioli would work. But even without the sauce, they are yummy and very quick to make. If you have time to chill them beforehand, all the better.
Yields: about 6 croquettes
- 2 cups cooked vegetable, either mashed or chopped fine
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- ½ cup cheese, grated
- ¼ cup breadcrumbs, plus more for cooking
- seasonings of your choice: chopped onion, fresh herbs, seasoning mix, etc. plus salt and pepper to taste
- 4 tbsp. oil
- ¼ lb. cooked, flaked fish or ground meat (optional)
- Hollandaise sauce, pesto, salsa, aioli, or other mayonnaise or dipping sauce to serve
Combine the vegetable, eggs, cheese, breadcrumbs and seasonings in a bowl, and mix well. Add the meat, if using — these will make the cakes more of an entree than a side dish. If the cakes aren’t holding together, add more breadcrumbs. If they are too dry, add more beaten egg to bind.
Form the croquettes into cakes. You should have at least 6, or you can make mini-cakes to get more. Lay on a sheet of wax paper on a plate and cover with wax paper. Chill for at least half an hour and up to a day.
Heat the oil over medium-high. Dredge the cakes in breadcrumbs. When the oil is shimmering, fry the cakes until well browned, about 5 minutes per side. You may have to cook the cakes in batches depending on the size of your pan.
Serve with the dipping sauce on the side.
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I don’t make baked beans too much. To tell the truth, it’s not one of my favorite dishes. But a lot of people love them, especially on patriotic holidays, like President’s Day, and I always think something is much better homemade than out of a can. Here is a fairly simple, vegetarian baked beans recipe that I enjoy, although I have to confess that I haven’t made it very often and the seasonings might need some tweaking.
One nice thing about baked beans is that it is a versatile recipe. You can cook the beans ahead or make the whole recipe ahead and then reheat before serving. You can easily make them in the slow cooker just by extending the cooking time. Leftovers freeze well and, I am told, make an excellent breakfast served on toast (see the picture).
One note: It is better for this recipe to use dried beans than canned, as they will retain their texture during the long cooking time and not turn to mush. If you are unsure how to cook dried beans, here are some instructions.
Yields: 4 servings
Time to make: ~1 hour, not including the time to cook the beans
- 2 cups dried navy beans, cooked until just tender
- 2 cups tomato puree
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tbsp. brown sugar
- 2 tbsp. maple syrup
- 2 tsp. chili powder
- ½ tsp. liquid smoke
- 2 tsp. cider vinegar
- 2 tbsp. Dijon mustard
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Combine all of the ingredients in a casserole dish and cover. Bake for 1 hour. Uncover for the last 20 minutes of cooking time.
Refrigerate up to 3 days or freeze.
Despite saying that I wasn’t going to eat black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day this year, I broke down and made the traditional Southern dish of hoppin’ john. (I skipped the collards, though.) And I have to say, it was fantastic. As a bonus, I’ll have good luck this year due to eating black-eyed peas.
I was inspired to make hoppin’ john by some wonderful pepper-smoked slab bacon that I received as a Christmas gift. The bacon is what really made this dish. It was rich, smoky and hearty, probably the best hoppin’ john I have ever made. I had to call up my Dad, who gave me the bacon, right after dinner and thank him. Unfortunately, I threw away the wrapper and so now I don’t know where the bacon came from. If you plan to recreate this, do try to seek out a good-quality slab smoked bacon (not pre-sliced).
Hoppin’ john is an extremely simple dish to make, which means it’s a good choice for a weeknight dinner. Don’t save it just for New Year’s Day. Hoppin’ john is essentially another variant of the classic beans and rice combination. Most cultures have a version: red beans and rice from Louisiana, lentils and rice from the Middle East, black beans and rice from the Caribbean, to name a few. You can substitute other beans in this recipe and play with the seasonings to make any of the variants you choose. But please, don’t omit the bacon!
Yields: 4 servings (leftovers can be frozen)
Time to make: ~45 minutes with frozen black-eyed peas
What you need:
- 1½ cups frozen black-eyed peas, or the equivalent of dried peas, cooked, liquid reserved
- ¼ lb. slab bacon, cubed
- ¼ cup celery, chopped
- ½ cup onion, chopped
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 tbsp. vegetable oil
- 1 tsp. Cajun seasoning or to taste
- 1 tsp. oregano
- Salt and pepper to taste
- ½ cup tomatoes, chopped, with their liquid
- ½ cup chicken stock (or use reserved cooking liquid, if you cooked dried peas)
- 1½ cups rice, cooked (I prefer the pilaf method)
- Optional garnishes: hot sauce, fresh parsley, chopped red onion, grated cheese and/or sour cream
- Sauté the bacon, celery, onion and garlic in the oil until the bacon is crispy and the vegetables are golden, 10 minutes.
- Add the seasonings.
- Stir in the black-eyed peas, the tomatoes with their liquid and the chicken stock (or reserved pea-cooking liquid).
- Simmer gently for 20 minutes, until the peas are tender.
- Serve over the cooked rice.
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Bean cakes — or croquettes, if you want to get all French about it — are a wonderfully versatile dish. They work equally well as a side at breakfast, as an appetizer with a dipping sauce, on a sandwich or in a tortilla. Use any kind of beans you like, and vary the flavorings to suit. I generally make mine with a Southwestern flair, but cannellini with Italian flavors or chickpeas with Middle Eastern flavors are also good ideas.
I have also made these with lentils, without much success, but don’t let that stop you from trying if you are a lentil fan. The lentils have to be cooked exactly right, though. If they are undercooked, the cakes won’t hold together, and if they are overcooked, the cakes will be too mushy.
Time to make: ~1 hour
Yields: 2-4 servings
- 2 cups beans, pre-cooked or canned, drained and rinsed with some of the liquid reserved
- ½ cup onion, diced
- 6 cloves garlic, whole with skins on
- ¼ cup cilantro or parsley
- 2 eggs
- ¼ cup Mexican cheese, dry feta or Parmesan, grated
- salt and pepper
- breadcrumbs as needed
- vegetable oil for frying
- food processor
Saute the onion until browned, about 10 minutes. At the same time, toast the garlic cloves in a dry skillet until spotty brown on all sides and set aside to cool.
In a food processor, process the beans with a little of their liquid until chunky. Peel and chop the garlic. Combine the beans, onion, garlic, herbs, eggs, cheese, salt and pepper. Form this mixture into 4 large or 8 small patties.
Place the patties on waxed paper and set in the freezer to firm about 30 minutes. Heat about 1/8 inch oil in a large skillet over medium. Dredge the patties in the breadcrumbs to coat. Fry the patties until browned on both sides, about 3-5 minutes per side.
Anything made into a cake and pan-fried has to be good. (Croquettes are traditionally deep-fried, but pan-frying is easier and better for you.) You can make croquettes with almost anything, and they are a particular tasty way of using up leftovers. For another style of croquette, try my Potato Croquettes. These Leftover Chicken Croquettes from AllRecipes look like a good idea for a quick weeknight meal. And here’s a recipe for Sweet Potato and Turkey Croquettes that’s a keeper for after-Thanksgiving leftovers.
Oscar night usually lends itself well to fun menus — movie-themed snack foods that can be eaten in front of the TV while ultra-thin stars parade down the red carpet. But this year I just wasn’t inspired. What kind of menu can you build around something called The Departed? I hadn’t even seen any of the five films nominated for the top award except Little Miss Sunshine, and we only watched that on Oscar afternoon. So no menu ideas presented themselves.
In fact, looking through the entire list of nominees, we had only watched three Oscar-nominated films in all of 2006: Superman Returns, Borat and Children of Men. My husband suggested a related menu of Tough Chicken, Over-cooked Cabbage and Hard-Boiled Eggs, and Suicide Pill, but that just didn’t sound appetizing. Well, let’s face it — I haven’t come up with a truly great Oscar menu since the year of Smoked Salmon Seabiscuits (that was 2004, for those of you keeping score at home).
So either we have to start seeing more movies or they have to come up with more food-themed titles. For this year, though, I took the easy way out and prepared some Mexican snacks in honor of the three directors nominated for Babel, Pan’s Labyrinth and the aforementioned Children of Men (for writing). For your next awards extravaganza, I offer the most successful of the night’s recipes, Black Bean Salsa.
Black Bean Salsa
Time to make: ~15 minutes, including roasting the chile
In a bowl, combine:
- 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 jalapeno, roasted, peeled, de-seeded and minced
- ¼ red onion, minced
- 1 sm. tomato, diced
- 2 tbsp. lime juice
- ½ tbsp. olive oil
- 1 tbsp. beer
- 1 tbsp. adobo seasoning
- ½ tbsp. chili powder
- salt to taste
Notes: This is a pretty mild salsa. If you like it hotter, add more chiles or a few drops of hot sauce. If you don’t have adobo seasoning, subsitute cumin, oregano, pepper and cayenne. Serve with tortilla chips.