Joy the Baker

All About the Bean

March 1, 2009

All About the Bean

Yes, I still love cupcakes.

Yes, I’ve been thinking about oatmeal cookies all week.

Yes,  I think pancakes should have a daily requirement like fruits and vegetables.

All of these things are true, yet here I am… and all I have to offer you is a pile of dried beans.

Do you feel wronged?  A little?  Be honest.

Let me explain.  These beans are special.  These beans have character, color and integrity.  These beans were inspiration enough for me to sit down and actually consider cooking dried beans at home.

See, I’m convinced that food has a story to tell and a story to create.  I want to know where my food comes from, so I’m always aspiring to find new foods from people who care about it as much as I do.

I don’t want to settle, but I also don’t want to spend a fortune on some fancypants ingredient that I won’t even have the tools to cook.  That’s just silly, right?

Well… these beans… they just made me swoon.  They’re beautiful.  And!  And!  I can cook them at home.  And if I can cook them at home, you can too.

Can I share my beans with you?  Will you indulge me?

All About the Bean

All About the Bean

These beautifully brown striped and plump heirloom beans are from RanchoGordo in Napa Valley.  Steve Sando and his family of growers care about beautiful beans.  More importantly, they care about making these beans as approachable as possible.  They actually want you to cook and enjoy them.

I chose Barlotti beans for my inaugural cooking.  They’re a bean typically associated with the Piedmont region of Italy, but also have strong roots in Colombia.  They’re a fat brown bean that cook up super meaty, earthy and delicious.

First let’s talk about how to cook these suckers, and tomorrow we’ll talk about how to incorporate them into an unforgettable dinner.

Good food is worth the time.  Beans are no exception.  Come on….  we can totally do this.

All About the Bean

Cooking Dried Beans in the Rancho Gordo Manner

There is not one single method of cooking beans.  The most basic method is to simmer the pot until the beans are soft.  Soaking can speed up the process, and vegetables or stock will make them more flavorful.  It’s really that simple!

Check beans for small debris and rinse in cool, fresh water.  Cover beans with two inches of water and soak for 4-6 hours.  In a large pot, saute finely chopped onions, celery, carrot and garlic (or any combination you prefer) in olive oil until soft.  Add beans and water, and make sure beans are covered by at least one inch of water.  Bring to a hard boil for five minutes and then reduce to a gentle simmer.  Once soft, add salt.  Beans can take from one to three hours to cook.  Slow and low is always best.

Crockpot Method

Saute half a chopped onion in about one tablespoon of olive oil.  Place in a crock pot followed by the cleansed and soaked beans.  Cover with water (about one part beans to three or four parts water).  Turn heat to “High” and give the contents a stir.  Do this is the morning and your beans will be done by the late afternoon.

Pressure Cooker Method

Check with manufacturer for the exact method for your model, but generally you want to cook under pressure for 20 minute, release, and then cook open on the stovetop for another 20 minutes.  Now that’s speedy!

More Fun Bean Facts

Don’t add acids like tomatoes or vinegar or sugars until the beans are just tender.  Acids can toughen the cooking beans.

You can replace some of the cooking water with beer or stock.

Bay leaves are nice… so are ham bones or smoked turkey legs.

In general, fresh, heirloom beans need little help.

And…  here’s a preview of what we’re making.  Tomatoes, Parmesan, polenta, fennel…. Goooooood!

All About the Bean


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