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Jan 14, 2010 02:48 PM

Beans, beans, the magical fruit; which one do you prefer to toot?

I am a dried bean junkie. No 12 step program will ever save me. I am powerless over the pinto bean. I find it so subtly sweet and satisfying that I can't get enough. Dried Limas are up there too. Kidney beans leave me cold and unfulfilled and white beans are OK. Garbanzos are special as well. What's your predilection? Whiners need not apply.

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  1. Black-eyed peas!!!!! I'm a Southern gal, ya know :) Then probably pintos and garbanzos.

    2 Replies
      1. re: Passadumkeg

        Love okra - even slimey. For my late New Year's dinner I fixed pork, black-eyed peas, rice and collards. Just the two of us so plenty of leftovers. When it got down close to the end, I'd MW a little mid-morning snack of the peas, rice and collards all mixed together. That's the best. My daddy used to say if he outlived me he was going to have me stuffed with black-eyed peas :) I will sometimes just put some garbanzos in a bowl with oil and vinegar, s&p and eat them up.

    1. My favorite commonly-found one (around Los Angeles County, that is) has for the past couple of years been the Peruano, or Peruvian bean. It's kinda like canellini in size and shape but maybe a bit larger, and ranges from off-white to beige or pale green; the flavor has some of the pinto's earthiness. I can get them canned or in bulk at the Latino markets. The best cassoulet I ever ate I made with those and lamb neck. Another rarer one I love is the White Cats that a guy at the Pasadena farmer's market has sometimes.

      c oliver, the only thing I miss about summer in Tennessee (except for lightning bugs) is the myriad varieties of field peas - yeah, blackeyes, but creamers, cowpeas, purple-hulls, lady peas, crowders, and several more I've forgotten. The Produce Place in Nashville gets these starting in early summer and they're pretty much gone by mid-August. So good...

      8 Replies
      1. re: Will Owen

        Will, I know the "Peruvian" bean from my years in Bolivia and agree. We will be in the LA are the week of 2/13, to escape the cold, and am looking forward to getting "beaned", heh, heh, heh.

        1. re: Passadumkeg

          Thanks to you guys, when I saw these Peruvian beans in an Hispanic market in Reno today, I knew to buy them. Thanks.

        2. re: Will Owen

          Yeah, I agree that there's little to miss about summer in the South but fresh peas are it. I find nothing more soothing than shelling a "mess" of peas. I can still find them occasionally at farmers markets in NoCal but pay the price.

          1. re: Will Owen

            That "Peruvian" bean is fairly new on the scene. I worked in the bean growing area of Cajamarca, Peru, several (maybe 15) years ago. We collected several hundred samples of the traditional beans grown by (small) farmers with an objective of in situ participatory germplasm conservation. The beans were first grown out to test agronomic and physiological characteristics and to identify and quantify separate phenotypes and genotypes. We had a total of more than a 100 separate traditional bean varieties. Farmers who wanted to do so grew several of the beans each season and (as agreed) traded or sold seed to other interested farmers. Farmers also participated in germplam exchanges at seed fairs. So far so good, until local agro-business in Peru picked up in the larger light colored what was to become "Peruvian" for marketing to the US and elsewhere. POOF! Overnight the traditional beans all but disappeared as farmers scrambled to produce the Peruvians. Farmers did a bit better financially; but we took a hit regarding in situ (agro-) biodiversity conservation.

            1. re: Sam Fujisaka

              Thanks for killing my buzz, Sam! Seriously, this is a downer, this market-driven drive to monoculture that will really be the death of food if it goes unchecked. The irony is - and I think it's rather a nice one - that prosperity seems to be encouraging diversity around here, in that acres of heirloom crops that had been ripped out and replanted in things like Red Delicious apples and tomatoes as sturdy (and tasty) as tennis balls, have now been re-ripped and re-replanted with stuff that may not ship worth a damn, but which people will pay $4 a pound for at the Farmer's Markets. That Produce Place market I mentioned buys seasonal stuff from local farmers, many of whom have returned to truck farming now that they have some good-paying outlets. This is not necessarily a worldwide trend, but if it doesn't spread we're cruising for some bad crashes. An article I read recently - Harper's or Atlantic, don't remember - zeroed in on the ubiquity of a Burbank potato, and pointed out that as soon as a particular potato disease hones its chops to pick on that variety we'll have another potato famine.

              By the way, I've noticed that one Latino-market brand of canned beans calls my favorites Peruanos on one side of the label and Mayacobas on the other. Judging from descriptions here they do sound very similar, but are they the same? Or just close? My bean-grower at the farmer's market mentioned that beans can be real sluts when it comes to cross-breeding, and that he has to keep his White Cats away from the Scarlet Runners!

              1. re: Will Owen

                The beans I bought today had both those names on the bag also.

              2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                Okay, I won't buy them again. They were good, but I don't want to take part in the inhibition of biodiversity anywhere I can help it. Maybe the coca farmers could grow mayacobas instead

                1. re: EWSflash

                  Most bean growing areas are at higher altitude than coca growing areas.

            2. I like Rice Beans in vegetable soups, mostly for their appearance. They look like white TicTacs. They are small enough that presoaking is unnecessary.

              I love dried large Lima Beans, which cook up as what you'd find in cans as butter beans. It's confusing - they are NOT the same bean as the smaller, pale green froxen lima bean.
              The big, ivory ones are creamy-testures and mild in flavor.

              A year ago I bought a variety of Rancho Gordo dried beans, including white and dark Tepary beans (also small and not needing soaking) and marrow beans, which were supposed to taste like bacon. You couldn't prove it by me! I don't detect a big difference in flavor in most beans. If I were blindfolded and fed mashed beans, I wouldn't give myself good odds, other than for lentils and limas.

              2 Replies
              1. re: greygarious

                Never heard of rice beans. Sounds good.

                1. re: c oliver

                  Rice beans (Phaseolus calcaratus, not a common bean) are grown mainly in China, India, and the Philippines.

              2. There are no bad beans. I like 'em all, and one of the staples in my pantry is "bean medley", which is a mix of white and red kidneys, chickpeas, blackbeans, pintos, etc. I'll drain a tin of those, mix in some chopped garlic, and top with a little olive oil and balsamic for a great side dish. I'll also throw a few tablespoons of mixed beans into tomato or vegetable soup.

                But my absolute fave is my dad's baked beans. Navy beans, soaked over night, layered in with tomato sauce improved with molasses and spices, garlic, smoked pork belly, and onions, and cooked in a bean pot for about 4 hours, then served with a nice crusty hot bread and butter. I don't care what music I play later that night - they always taste like more.

                1 Reply
                1. re: FrankD

                  Funny, I do a tremendous amount of Mexican cooking, but use pintos over black 10-1. I live in New England, but use white Navy style for French/Italian stews, not for Boston Baked beans (too sweet).

                2. Agreed, there are no bad beans, the trouble now is to decide my preferred. Hmmm.
                  I just had navy neans with a huge ham bone the other day, my they were good.
                  Pink beans with pork, lots of spice. Outstanding
                  Blackbeans with all the accessories, sour cream, lime, cilantro, salsa, cheese, etc, can't complain.
                  Black eyed peas, creamy and the pure comfort food.
                  Lima beans, baby or large. Nothing better.
                  Kidney beans, eh. I don't like this bean, the skins is tough, and they just don't get creamy, definitely my least favorite, the skin is tough, don't care for that.
                  Pinto beans are really good, oh yeah, with some great cornbread, can't get any better.
                  My favorite....well the pinto bean, not a a bean that you hear much about, but let me tell you, a bowl of these, some good cornbread, a little sour cream, cilantro and hot sauce and I don' t want anything else.... here ya go, a little eye candy.

                  30 Replies
                  1. re: chef chicklet

                    My first year of teaching in New Mexico, we got paid once a month. Over Christmas, before the holiday, at mid December and not again till the end of Jan. My bro, cousin and I went to San Francisco and blew all our money. We existed the month of January on pintos and corn bread and still love 'em.
                    Putting 5 kids trough college the last 11 years, we've eaten a lot of beans. I buy them in 25 or 40 lb bags from out healthe

                    1. re: Passadumkeg

                      and that's where I learned to make pinto beans.
                      i just realized that the photo I posted above was the blackeyed peas, oh well, nothing wrong with those either but here's the real star

                    2. re: chef chicklet

                      "Kidney beans, eh. I don't like this bean, the skins is tough, and they just don't get creamy, definitely my least favorite, the skin is tough, don't care for that." Are you sure you're getting fresh ones? I was given a 5-lb bag of canellini one year by my late pa-in-law, and swear to god they must have been several years old. I decided they were not going to defeat me and cooked them over and over until they became edible. I think it took four days!

                      Anyway, kidney beans are something I always have canned, probably because canned kidneys were our family's canned bean of choice. We had them in skillet casseroles, in a dish my mom called "goulash" which would not have been allowed into Hungary (though we loved it), and in the bland hamburger and tomato soup that passed in our house as chili. I still use them in that skillet dish, when we're between weight-watching...

                      1. re: Will Owen

                        For me, kidney beans are only good in salad.

                        1. re: Will Owen

                          I don't know, I buy a bag I hope they're fresh. I make chili with this bean most of the time. I'll eat them, it's just the texture is tougher to me than most beans. I rarely use canned beans, preferring dried, do you recommend a dried kidney bean that I might like? 4 days doesn't scare me by the way, we do what we must.

                          1. re: chef chicklet

                            I will buy and use canned beans for two simple reasons: time and money. If I want a big pot of beans I'll go from dry, but a small batch uses the same amount of cooking gas as a big batch, or damn near, so the savings from buying a small bag over buying two or three cans are largely illusory by the time they're cooked. As for quality, cooking them in the can as the canners do yields finished beans of a quality I find hard to match in an open pot; the only time I've come close was when I followed a Saveur recipe for Tuscan-style beans slow-cooked overnight in the oven, or in a cassoulet which is done the same way.

                            1. re: Will Owen

                              Really? you mean all beans or the red kidney? I honestly have only eaten refried canned, garbanzo and red beans when someone else makes a salad. I do like them in a salad come to think of it and for darn sure they must be canned. I am one of those sick individuals that loves to stand over the stove and stir and fuss. Just a habit, but I'll have to check them out WO, you know how we tend to get stuck in our ways!

                              Cassoulet, which reminds me that was one of the dishes that someone made on the FN challenge to be the next star. If I remember it was the winning dish, and she used canned beans!

                              1. re: chef chicklet

                                The FN next star contestants were limited by time; otherwise, canned beans in cassoulet is a travesty.

                                1. re: bushwickgirl

                                  Only because the beans and meats should be cooked together, after the beans become cooked through but before they're fully tender (in other words, at the point where you can safely add salt). But a quick dish of canned beans and lamb shank or neck, and maybe some duck if you have it and sausage too, while not actually a cassoulet is pretty damn tasty. Especially if you have the ingredients and a cold, nasty day you don't want to go out into.

                                  1. re: Will Owen

                                    "after the beans become cooked through but before they're fully tender (in other words, at the point where you can safely add salt)"

                                    FYI, salt can be added at the start of cooking. Contrary to popular belief, it doesn't keep the beans from softening completely.

                                    1. re: Humbucker

                                      If Frank McGee or Shirley Corriher said that, I'll believe it. A number of the food writers I trust have said otherwise, and my own experience seems to have confirmed that. It's possible I was trying to cook beans that were too old, but right now I'm soaking two pounds of Tarbais, for which I paid a ridiculous sum, and I'm taking no chances!

                                      1. re: Will Owen

                                        Do not assault the beans before cooking!

                                        1. re: Will Owen

                                          Cook's Illustrated says:

                                          "Adding salt right at the start of cooking, which is thought to toughen the skins and increase cooking time overall, was actually a good idea--the only way we found to season the beans properly. The threats of tough skins and prolonged cooking never materialized."

                                          From Harold McGee (the McGee you meant to refer to?):

                                          "Salt does slow the softening of dried beans, but adding it early also gets salt into the bean interior, while adding late leaves most of the salt on or near the surface. If you’re thinking ahead early enough to presoak the beans, salt in the presoaking water actually speeds the cooking, in addition to salting the beans evenly."

                                          1. re: Humbucker

                                            Sorry, read all you want, but my 40 years of cooking bean says otherwise.

                                            1. re: Passadumkeg

                                              May you cook beans for another 40 years, but I've been cooking them for less than ten, so I've been following the lead of the testers at CI.

                                              My biggest problem is that I have hard water! When I remember, I use bottled water, but it seems like such a waste. I've heard baking soda also helps, but I don't like the effect it has on the nutritional value of the beans.

                                              1. re: Humbucker

                                                I too suffer from hard water. Best solution I've found is to score a few milk crates and go to walmart and use their filtered reverse osmosis water machine, for 39 cents a gallon in plastic bottles that last for years. Makes all the difference for beans, stocks, etc.

                                                1. re: Humbucker

                                                  I have hard water too, and it gets more so with the advent of the Colorado River water blend here. The best thing you can do is check out your local water company's water quality web sites if they have them, and you can get the components of your water if you want to do something about the quality. But people in a lot of bean-eating countries have really funky water for a lot of reasons, so you know what? It doesn't much matter, I don't think. We all have our own schticks, do your own things and don't think you're the ultimate expert!!!

                                                2. re: Passadumkeg

                                                  Here Chowhounds talk about their experience with the brining method:

                                                3. re: Humbucker

                                                  I'm with you on this one, humbucker. If you don't add salt at the beginning they end up tasting Totally Sodium Free, and I for one cannot handle sodium-free beans. It's as bad as salt-free eggs or potatoes.

                                                  1. re: EWSflash

                                                    Hmmm, brining, I will give it a try. I just remember one occasion, can't remember any details, of salted beans not cooking.

                                            2. re: Will Owen

                                              Will Owen; do you have a favorite recipe? I've never made or even looked at a cassoulet before but I just happen to have a beautiful, freezing cold storm, a hot wood stove, 2 lamb shanks, 1 lb of neck (I have no clue what to do with), beans and sausage galore, no duck but I do have chicken or I guess I might be able to get some when I risk life and limb to pick up kid 2 in town... If not for tonight there is always tomorrow. TIA - M

                                              1. re: just_M

                                                I do have a favorite recipe, but it calls for a slow oven - or I guess a back-of-stove heavy pot if the lid's good and tight. Email me at <> and I'll send it along. As for the current job at hand, after two days of soaking most of the tarbais plumped up OK. There was about a cup out of the two pounds that didn't; they were easy to spot because they were still bright white and clanked when they hit metal. The plump ones went into a pot WITH 1 1/2 LBS OF SMOKED PORK NECK! Yes, I thought I'd defy common wisdom including my own! And guess what? After 7 hours in a 275º oven, they are plump and tender and a bit on the salty side. And I have blistered fingers from deboning hot neckbones...

                                                For the record, our tap water is rock-hard. And yes, I did mean HAROLD McGee, but didn't have reference handy.

                                                1. re: Will Owen

                                                  so wait all this talk back and forth what are your steps? Do you salt in the beginning? Okay I'm going to take a beating. I always use dried beans, I too live with hard water, and yes I've lived in Albq. I know the beauty of a pink pinto bean and I do, yes I do salt the beans in the beginning, again in the middle and at the end if they need it. I make great beans. I've had one or two disasters. Using a huge pot that the bottom was too thin - scorched beans. Tossed then and cried.
                                                  I also cooked a pot of beans, I really don't remember what kind. I cooked them and cooked them on the stove top for two days. On the second day they started to soften. I was over them, and I tossed those too.
                                                  Now I always use the slow cooker, and the results after 12 hours or so are perfectly creamy beans. I've had equally as good results in the oven using a large dutch oven and if it's a day I'm home all day I'll do that. It's just so darn easy to throw them in a crockpot and turn them on high, then turn then down halfway throught the cooking process.
                                                  I am looking forward to cassoulet with duck, sausage, ham shanks and I[ll use the little white beans. I love my beans,: ) Thanks for reminding me to make cassoulet!

                                                  1. re: chef chicklet

                                                    Sorry, should have mentioned that the smoked neckbones, being a commercial product, were of course quite salty. Interesting phenomenon: the broth the beans are now in is not particularly salty at all, but the beans themselves are. Anyway, I did not add any salt per se, but knowingly and with full intent did insert salty material into the cooking process at the very beginning, with the end in view of salting those things from the outset. Worked, too.

                                                    1. re: Will Owen

                                                      Hmm. Hope the tarbais I bought yesterday for a fairly astonishing $13.00 for 14 oz (don't want to make a gigantic pot) cook up as well as yours. Will report.

                                                      1. re: buttertart

                                                        I googled Tarbais beans, thinking that the Emperor's tailor must have given up his profession and gone into farming. A David Lebowitz article said they are expensive because since they are planted to grow by climbing cornstalks (think Native Americans' "three sisters" principle), harvest is labor-intensive. I've never had these designer beans, but how much different could they be from off-the-rack beans? I can't imagine paying lobster prices for squid. End of metaphor-fest! ;-D

                                                        1. re: greygarious

                                                          Very interesting indeed. They really taste a lot better (to me) and their texture is not as mealy as a Great Northern or lima (neither of which I like particularly). What the heck, the freaking goose cost a bundle too, want to make as much out of the leftovers as possible - and have them as palatable as possible since we'll be eating them for several meals (only 2 of us at home).

                                                          1. re: greygarious

                                                            I don't think they're quite worth it, but they are a lot better. There is a substantial enough difference that bistro owners and French chefs are willing to drastically increase food costs on a dish they could be making a huge profit on. Food cost wise, cassoulet is usually a great deal in bistros, which is part of why I never buy the pricey tarbais beans to make cassoulet myself. The ingredient cost to cook it myself is almost the same as ordering it in even an overpriced bistro.

                                                            1. re: danieljdwyer

                                                              This raises the question of whether Tarbais are inherently better-tasting, or whether there is some nutrient advantage to the Three Sisters planting method that would improve the flavor of any bean grown that way. The article on Tarbais beans only mentioned corn, so I don't know if squash is grown along with them.

                                                          2. re: buttertart

                                                            Haricots tarbais report: Made the CI streamlined cassoulet recipe (good recipe btw) from the December issue. It calls for soaking the beans in salt water, which I did. It also calls for putting them inthe pot just soaked, which I did (semi-reluctantly). The totally weird outcome? Some of the beans cooked and some didn't (not just the ones on the top layer either). I may have gotten a bag of beans of mixed vintages, I don't know what else would have made this happen. Had to cook the dish longer to get all beans edible, by which time the ones that were more obliging were breaking down. And the final verdict? Haricots tarbais are NOT the ones in the cassoulet we had in Paris - those were an odd, almost triangular shape, and very good-tasting. The tarbais are like a slightly bigger and more curved cannelini bean in taste and shape. Would not lash out the $$ for them again. I wonder what the ones in Paris were - the owner of the restaurant is a crusty kind of guy, I would almost be afraid to ask him!