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May 27, 2008 09:03 AM

The Humble Bean

I'm inspired of late by the appeal of the humble bean. I think consuming more of it might just be the ticket (at least one of) to eating healthier, in terms of less meat, and more frugally.

Now all I need is your best bean recipes! Chili, soups, dips, and beyond. I'm hoping to get a good chain that will serve as a resource to the whole cooking group.

I'll toss out a few ideas. My kids love split pea soup, which is one of the easiest things I can make. Chopped mire-poix, sauteed in a little oil. A little bit of pork in there - either ham or bacon, whatever I've got. Then I throw in a bag of rinsed peas, 2 cans of chicken broth (or homemade if I have it), 2 cans of water, a bay leaf, some thyme, and let it go about an hour. S&P. If it's too thick add water.

Hummus. Chick peas in the food processor with a little evoo, some ground cumin, a little tahini, generous lemon juice, season. Process till smooth.

I once took some chick peas (canned), threw them on a baking sheet, tossed them with a bit of spice mix (I don't recall what exactly but it was likely s&p, garlic, something spicy), and roasted them slow until they got crunchy. Very good snack!

And of course the quintessential chili. I make mine with ground turkey, browned with onion, bell and jalapeno peppers. Add a couple cans of beans, a can of chopped tomatoes, chili powder, and a bit of water. Simmer the whole thing for an hour or so.

Oh, and baked beans! My husband makes these so I don't know the exact recipe, but it involves bacon, mustard, and molasses. And hours in the oven!

I generally rely heavily on canned beans, but can probably save a mint by using dried, and soaking.

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  1. I love beans first of all. They are right up there with my potato love...
    I make a lot of different beans, for the pink pinto I think I did them best by cooking them for two days in the crockpot...
    I have spent the past two days making pinto beans. Here are the steps and ingredients... since I didn't write them down I am strictly retracing my steps from memory..
    1 package cleaned picked over rinsed, then soaked in water- pinto beans
    In a crockpot. pour the beans in on high with soaking liquid. Add a medium finely diced onion and 4 cut up garlic cloves. Add salt and pepper/ I add this initial stage about 1 tsp of sea salt and fresh cracked pepper.
    1/2 cup of ham -leftover from trimmings-not needed

    Let this simmer for 4 hours. Check the liquid add more water, and chicken broth if you have it. Add 2 T knorrs chicken boullion
    4 big bay leaves
    2 T Ancho chili
    3 New Mexico - both chiliis are ground, in powdered form
    I got good heat from this amount
    Let this cook more for another couple hours
    Dice another onion small ( I used a large white small dice) added 4 more cloves garlic and 2 stalks of celery small dice
    2 T cumin -I use Indian -better price and fresh cumin flavor
    1/2 cup chopped cilantro
    1/2 red bell pepper small dice and 1/2 green small dice
    the idea is that all the veggie cook down, there is no chuncks of veggies/

    On the second day, i added two smoked pork chops- I usually add ham hocks, I was actually pretty pleased with the smoked pork chops, less fat and not too smokey. I cubed them after they cooked for awhile,left the bones in till serving/
    Then I added 2 T about of Mexican oregano, rub between your hands it crumbles it nicely, cook it too long, it gets bitter.

    The second day around 11 am they were ready, and I remove the bones and the bay leaves, with a potato masher and begin mashing the beans to thicken the pot. I don't break up all the beans, but this helps with creaminess and thickens the beans-just the way I love them!

    For toppings:
    chopped tomatoes
    scallion, red onion or whatever
    sour cream
    avocado with lime quarter
    cheese -you pick
    hot sauce-Tabasco or Crsytal would be my choice, served with cornbread!
    89 cents for about 10 servings, maybe more....serve with ice cold corona, with lime.

    2 Replies
    1. re: chef chicklet

      chef chicklet, we had your pink pinto bean stew for supper tonight and it was just outstanding. I used smoked pork neck bones for flavor/meat, and served the stew with a dollop of sour cream and some lime. Also, freshly fried johnny cakes with lots of honey. The plan was to serve with more accompaniments (avocado, cilantro...) but at supper time I was lazy and it was so good that it didn't matter.
      I'm sorry to say that I didn't have Mexican oregano or bell peppers (but I did grind up some poblanos, which was really fun for me) but there was flavor galore and we really enjoyed your beans along with some nice cold beer! We'll have this again, in fact, we have a friend that I want to make this for, I think he'll love it.

      Thank you for this terrific recipe.

      1. re: fern

        CC, am I understanding that you add meat TWICE to these beans?
        "1/2 cup of ham -- leftover from trimmings--not needed" What does this sentence mean?
        Sorry, fern had no problem understanding but I do...would love to try these beans, though!

    2. oops. a picture of the delciousness!

      5 Replies
      1. re: chef chicklet

        That looks sooo good! I don't have a crockpot - is there any other way? Heavy pot in the oven? Low heat on the stove? I have a small kitchen and no place for a new gadget... I only bought my rice cooker a couple of months ago.

        1. re: sasha1

          I can only guess... but if you've done beans in a heavy pot on slow and low before, I would imagine. I would keep an eye for scorching, if that happens it ruins the beans... so I started these in the crockpot at about 10am and then turned them off, at 6pm. then turned them back on yesterday morning at 8am to cook a little longer.
          Gosh Sasha thinking about your question, people have been cooking beans for years in pots. So I'd try it!
          I have to say this turned out to me my best pot of pink pinto beans.
          I thought I put it in but it looks like I left out that I chopped fine 2 stalks of celery, that went in the same time as the second set of diced onion.

          1. re: sasha1

            I'm cooking and enjoying lots of beans lately. Cooked at home is soooo much superior to canned. And they're super easy to do on the stovetop.

            Put beans in water in a heavy pot with a pinch of ground ginger and a pinch of granulated garlic. You want about 4 times as much water as beans. No salt in the soak. Bring just up to a boil. Turn off and leave overnight or for several hours until the water cools completely.

            Drain the beans and refill the pot with water, half of an onion, a rib or two of celery, a carrot or two and a clove of garlic. Put in a couple teaspoons of salt and a few peppercorns. Bring just up to a boil and turn down to the lowest simmer your stove top is capable of. You don't want the water to be moving at all. Cook for, probably, a couple hours but start checking at 90n minutes. You want al dente. Drain, discard the veggies & peppercorns (my dogs love this!) and use or refrigerate.

            My favorite thing is a salad. I toss the warm beans with vinaigrette then add anything that strikes me. I like something crisp like thin cross sections of celery or fennel. Something colorful like crosswise sections of cherry tomatoes and/or thinly slice red, yellow or orange bell pepper. Something creamy like bocconchini. Don't forget slice green onions or minced shallot. Adjust the flavor with salt & pepper and herbs. Brighten the flavor with a squeeze of lemon or lime juice.

            Another favorite salad is white beans (canellini or limas) with tuna and a lemon-based vinaigrette. Some chopped dill. It's simple, satisfying and delicious. You'll never think tuna & mayo again! And beans really come alive with the flavor of lemon.

            I also -- when I want just a few beans for something -- do them in the microwave. I soak as above and then put a few beans in a large glass canning jar with seasoned water (only about half full). I turn on the microwave for a couple minutes to boil. Then I just let them sit in the microwave until the water cools and taste test. If they need more cooking I repeat.

            Here's my most recent salad of flageolets with spinach

            1. re: rainey

              I love the idea of warm beans tossed with homemade vinaigrette. Your description of that is wonderful. I would use crescent cut sweet onion and the other good things you mention. This is something I must make forthwith!

            2. re: sasha1

              A slow oven is a good substitute, less danger of scorching on the bottom. DK about 2 days. I cook black beans (unsoaked, salted) 12 hours at my oven's lowest setting (175).

          2. My mother made this Lima Bean Soup, and there was never a precise recipe. Note that dry lima beans reconstitute into a creamy butter bean, not the smaller green lima that many people don't like. Makes nearly 4 qts of soup:

            1 large lamb shank, the size of a man's fist
            2 large onions, diced
            3 big ribs of celery, sliced 1/4" thick
            2-3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
            2 large carrots, sliced/diced
            1 16-oz bag dried lima beans, rinsed and picked over
            1 large bay leaf
            S & P to taste

            Heat a tablespoon of oil in a stockpot over med-high heat, sear the lamb shank on all sides. Add onion and garlic and stir to deglaze. Add the bay leaf, 3 qts water, and the lima beans. These are not presoaked - some of them will split in cooking, and thicken the soup naturally. Reduce heat to medium and simmer. After an hour, add celery and carrots, continue simmering until beans are soft and meat is falling from bone. Remove shank and shred the meat before returning it to the pot. Season to taste. Soup will thicken considerably once cooled.
            Optional: To deepen the color of the broth, add your choice of soy sauce, beef base,
            or powdered onion soup mix before seasoning.

            2 Replies
            1. re: greygarious

              On lima beans: I recently had a "lima bean soup" that sounded similar, but interestingly, it deployed fresh cilantro. Weird? Wonderful? I don't know, but I ate every drop, if that helps. Wonder if anyone has a recipe like that?.... (I don't eat meat, incidentally.)

              Garbanzos, canned rinsed, are always good in pasta, too. Or "fried" in a little oil and cayenne or cumin so they kind of pop.

              If I'm feeling really lazy (and cheap) I make "chili" with canned black beans, garlic, chopped onion and a can of good-quality tomatoes. Sprinkle with cheese, crema or sour cream, and tortilla chips and.. yum! Not as good as properly prepared chili, but a great fast weeknight meal that's good for you, too.

              REFRIED. Mash up canned beans or soaked and cooked beans in a pan with a little oil (or lard, if you want to be authentic), fresh garlic, finely chopped onion and spices of your choice. Cook through, top with crumbled cotija cheese. With rice, it's a complete meal -- and a complete protein. I add veggies to the rice for a well-rounded meal.

              We also take refried beans and slather them, and some oaxaca cheese, on flour tortillas, which we cook until melty. Bean quesadillas! Delicious.

              1. re: greygarious

                I'm definately trying this soup - it sounds wonderful!

                On limas - I actually love them. Not a hater at all. And you reminded me of a lovely - though not super healthy - recipe I have in my James McNair Rice cookbook - based on a Persian rice dish. I think you need to soak some long grain rice overnight, then mix in some frozen limas, a lot of chopped fresh dill, a bunch of melted butter, and cook it in a covered pot, domed, on low heat. The rice steams will all the water it has absorbed, and the butter makes the bottom very crunchy and wonderful. I love this stuff, even on the second day when a bit of the crunch has gone away.

              2. I got some great ideas from this thread last year mostly pertaining to Rice and Beans. Gotvin's version has become part of my regular rotation -- my kids love it!


                1 Reply
                1. re: valerie

                  Thanks for the link - I'll be exploring it later today. My 6 y.o. boy has at times in his life been extremly openminded and extremely picky. He's somewhere in the middle currently. But his love of rice and beans has endured the test of time. The fun thing has been explaining to him that so many cuisines have a different version of beans and rice - he seems to enjoy them all!

                  Spanish rice and refried beans.
                  Basmati and daal.
                  Creole/cajun red beans w/rice and sausage.
                  Steamed rice and edamame!