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what's the diff between dried beans and which are good for what?

Hey all, is there any rule of thumb for dried beans? xxx beans are good for Mexican food, yyy beans are good for purees, zzz beans are good when you're in a hurry, whatever?

Or is there a difference depending on the size? Like the smallest ones are good for aaa and the biggest ones are good for bbb?

I've found dried favas (new to me), what would make them shine?

I'm a gal who likes a side-by-side taste comparison and so far I haven't done a bean-off. Appreciate any and all tips!

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  1. Lentils are good when you're in a hurry as they don't need soaking.

    1. check out: http://www.ranchogordo.com/

      I like to keep it simple black beans simmered with garlic, red onion and it ABSOLUTELY must have epazote ---so good! I could eat tortillas guac and black beans for the rest of my life and be happy.

      1. This a good question and I'm looking forward to responses. Recently I've been using canned beans. I'm of the rinse the goop off and use a chicken broth crowd.

        My favorite is the S&W Premium White Bean. They are small and can be used in a number of ways. Sweet with brown sugar, maple surup, Steens etc., etc., ... or savory (meaning less sweet).

        I was looking at about 6 types of dried beans yesterday and had the same question you have. At my local farmers market (Sacramento CA) there is a producer who is showing up with "heirloom beans" Anazi is one of them. A tasting is a good idea but not cheap with these guys.

        Another favorite is fresh frozen beans. I find limas and blackeye peas here. But your question is what to use for what? I just do it by the seat of my pants. That, in my case, gives me quite a bit of latitude! :-)

        Again, I'm looking forward to hound cooks input.


        1. for the perfect bean, studied exhaustively, the most entertaining source would be jeffery steingarten's article on the fiasco published in vogue earlier this year. i found the article reprinted online here http://rec.mailarchive.ca/food.cookin...

          1 Reply
          1. re: bothrops_asper

            Thank you so much for posting this link! A ton of useful information and funny, as well.

          2. Never thought about rules of thumbs but dried beans are so interesting. Usually they just look pretty in jars on my kitchen counter.

            I see you are in the Bay Area. That Rancho Gordo link is great and if you can get to the Farmers Markets at Ferry Plaza or Marin you can chat with Rancho Gordo who is very enthusiastic and knowledgable about Mexican beans.

            Also, you must drive down to Pescadero and stop by Phipps Ranch and check out the many, many, many heirloom beans. They even have a recipe for those dried fava beans of yours on the site.

            Chatting with farmers at farmers markets will give you great ideas on how to use dried beans.

            I always like Cooks Thesaurus for basic descriptions of food with pictures. Here's the dried bean page

            1. I use pintoes, black or kidney in Mexican type recipes: I chop up & cook 3 or 4 strips of bacon, add 1/2 - 1 chopped onion, cumin, chipotle powder, & diced chipotle in adobo sauce if I have it, diced garlic to taste, & ample water.

              White beans go well with Italian recipes. A simple recipe is white beans in ample water, add garlic, handful of fresh sage, & a little olive oil. The garlic & sage can be added whole & removed at the end if you like-or chop & leave them in. Simmer slowly till tender.

              1. OK, I did a mini bean-off when I didn't have enough beans to do Will Owens' "Of Lamb and Beans" faux cassoulet (fab, by the way).

                I used both black and white beans and found they were both creamy inside but that the black beans had a slightly more substantive skin. The white beans didn't explode and weren't at all mushy but had less tooth than the black. Both were really really good (tasted exactly the same) but I'd use black beans in long-cooking recipes where you want some chew at the end. (This makes it sound like the black beans were tough--not tough at all but the skin felt thicker.)

                rworange, I will definitely be chatting up the Rancho Gordo and Phipps Ranch folks when I'm in the neighborhood. Maybe I can do a combo elephant seal/Duarte's/Phipps Ranch trip in December... (I'm in Bodega Bay, so am only tangentially SF bay area.)

                1. I use mung beans or red beans to do a dessert. Boil in water, add sugar, and coconut milk if you want. Have it hot in the winter, cold in the summer. There are other things you can add to it, like sweet potatoes, sweet rice balls, etc.

                  1. Dried white beans cooked with the trinity and a ham hock or two, served over rice, accompanied by cornbread. Delicious. And of course, the ubiquitous red beans, cooked with smoked sausage, served over rice.

                    1. I'm fairly new to beans but this is what I've learnt so far. The darker beans (black, pinto, cranberry, red, red kidney) tend to have more flavor, take longer to cook and are used a lot in Mexican cooking. The lighter beans (canellini, navy, great northern) are more bland, cook faster and are used in European dishes. There are exceptions of course. Favas are Mediterranean/Middle Eastern.

                      Rick Bayless describes white beans as being the chicken breast of the bean world, i.e. if that's any help.

                      There is a fairly detailed description of beans and their uses in Joy of Cooking.

                      1. Beans, beans...what's not to like? Homemade refries (yes, with a bit of lard); canellini bean salad with fresh sage, olive oil, and black pepper; proper baked beans; or my favorite bean dish which is Jota, a borlotti bean, pork, and saurkraut stew from the Trieste/Friuli area - really superb comfort food. Borlotti (cranberry) beans have the best flavor on their own of any bean I can think of. The recipe that brings out that flavor the best is the "Baked Fresh Borlotti Beans" in the YELLOW River Cafe cookbook - it is just fresh shelled beans, water, a tomato, a head of garlic, and olive oil, baked to perfection. Super yummy.

                        1. Beans (Phaseolus), some over-simplifications: Small black for most Mexican, Costa Rican dishes. Colombians like large reds. Mixtures were the rule in places of origin like Cajamarca, Peru. African tastes are also region-specific. Large white for French and Italian dishes. Other legumes (cowpeas, mung beams, pigeon peas) are not beans per se.

                          1. i love beans of all sorts, and certain cuisines seem to have an affinity for certain beans. as another poster mentioned, the darker ones seem to be predominant in central and south american and lighter ones in mediterranean cuisines. no matter what, i always sautee onions, garlic and bay in oil, then add cooking water, boil then add the beans.

                            there is a quick-soak method also -- bring the beans to a boil, turn off the heat, and soak for an hour. drain and then cook in fresh water.

                            lentils only take about 30 minutes, and the tiny black and pink lentils cook in half that.