Issue 04

Recipes

Basics

Recipe by The Communal TablePhotography by Leela Cyd
Directions

-It’s good if you can soak your beans at least 4 hours ahead of cooking them. I often do this overnight, but have also been known to throw a pound of white beans under water first thing in the morning. If you forget to soak, you can always do a quick-soak method where you put your beans in a pot, cover with about 2 inches of water, and bring to a rolling boil. At that point, turn the heat off and cover them for an hour. Drain and use as you would any other soaked bean.

-I was lucky enough to learn a little bean cookery from a well-respected chef of Northern Italian heritage, and his best advice was to cook beans in enough water that they have room to dance. You don’t want too much water, lest the broth they make will be thin, but you also have to give them enough room to dance.

-Your beans will dance if, and only IF, you keep the heat at a perfect simmer. What is a perfect simmer? You have to find it by playing with your stove a little. Keep the heat at a level where the beans are moving, but not too vigorously. Just put on your favorite song, play with the heat a little, and wait for the beans to move. If they look like they’re dancing, you’ve found a perfect simmer.

-Do not skimp on aromatics, spices or salt. Be creative. I always throw in garlic, no matter what. You can make a perfectly good pot of beans with salt and garlic alone. But a little onion or some parsley stems or a celery rib are good to add. A touch of cumin or bay leaf or rosemary never hurt. Tamar Adler, in her astoundingly delicious book, Everlasting Meal, says that you can’t go wrong with fennel.

-Let me reiterate the salt thing. Do not forget to salt your beans. This is a hot topic in the riveting bean cookery world. I was taught that salt toughens beans, which has since proven not to be true. Even so, on more superstitious days, I add salt about 20 minutes into cooking time. Either way, don’t forget to salt those beans. They’ll be bland without salt.

-No pot of beans is complete without a glug or two of fat. Olive oil or bacon grease are my fats of choice when it comes to cooking beans, but use whatever suits your fancy.

-If you don’t eat all of the beans you’ve made, store them in their own rich broth. Even if the beans go fast and all you have left is the broth, keep it anyway. This liquid makes a wonderful soup base or something to sop up leftover bread.

-Enjoy!

George Marie

A few years ago I started cooking navy beans by slowly bringing them to a simmer over an hour (or two or three). The beans keep their shape, have a lovely delicate flavor and are excellent served cold with olive oil and flaky salt. Where did I see this recipe? I wish I remembered. It’s brilliant.

White Beans with Sage & Garlic
start the beans in a pot of cold water with salt, a sprig or two of fresh sage and a clove (or two) of garlic. on low heat, slowly bring the beans to a simmer & cook until tender (do not boil). Takes 2 to 5 hours. (No need to soak beans beforehand).

 

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