Classic Pot of Beans
In my kitchen, the days of opening cans of beans are pretty much long gone. Of course now and then, cans are there in a pinch...for the occasional pureed bean dip, or for when I'm craving some creamy cannellinis but forgot to plan ahead. I remember my first attempt at cooking dried beans. I had no idea what I was doing. My pretty green flageolets, after boiling for over an hour, turned out partly disintegrated and tough. Disappointed, I didn't even attempt working with dried beans again until a few years later when my dear friend Jesse taught me the basics of cooking a simple pot of beans. Everyone should know how to transform these dried legumes into something rich, creamy and delicious. I am now confident with my bean-cooking skills and I have realized the inherent difference between freshly cooked beans and those that have been sitting in a can. Whenever possible I buy organic heirloom varietals (Rancho Gordo has a wonderful, diverse bean selection, and Community Grains has amazing quality beans as well; I am 100% hooked on their cannellinis), as their flavor and texture far surpass the rest. I love waking up in the morning and putting beans on the stove to simmer. They keep well in the refrigerator for use in a variety of dishes in the days that follow.
The only obstacle that might stand between you and your succulent pot of beans would be not thinking ahead. You must soak dried beans, preferably overnight. Place 2 c dried beans in large bowl and cover with water. Water level should be at least three inches above top of beans to allow for absorption. Let stand uncovered at room temperature overnight. In morning, prepare your vegetables. Dice up around 1 carrot, 1-2 stalks celery and a half or whole yellow onion. Smash 2 cloves of garlic, and mince 4 five inch stalks fresh rosemary. Place everything (along with any other herbs you'd like; I usually add a bay leaf or two) in a medium sized pot with a few tablespoons oil (i switch off among coconut, olive and sunflower oils) on medium-high heat. Cook, stirring often, for around 5 minutes. Drain beans from their soaking liquid. Add beans to pot, followed by fresh water to about an inch above level of beans. Bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer and cover pot with lid. Allow to simmer, stirring occasionally, for 1 to 1 1/2 hours (cook time depends on size and varietal of bean) or until beans are perfectly tender. Remove from heat. Add a few teaspoons of good quality salt to taste. Obviously beans can be enjoyed in infinitely wonderful ways. One of the more simple ways I like to enjoy them while they are still warm is ladled into a bowl with some of their liquid, drizzled with vibrant extra virgin olive oil and topped with some crushed walnuts and a bit of salt.