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Oct 30, 2010 01:22 PM

Cooking boring dried beans

I'm trying to do two things at once: cut down on my meat, and cut down on my sodium. The two together means dried beans.

But I have a problem. We're really big on convenience in our household, which means I'll be cooking up huge batches and IQFing them for future use, so I need neutral flavors for versatility. Another is that I'm trying to keep costs down, and if at any point preparing my dried beans becomes more expensive than canned beans I'm out, so no ham hocks and the like.

And finally, and this is the biggest one and a blasphemy, I'm sure, on this board. We like canned beans. I like my beans to be so squishy they fall apart. I like the flavor of canned beans, and I'm not sure what those flavors are. I usually eat Harris Teeter's canned black or dark red beans.

Maybe I'll branch out into other beans with time. Maybe I'll become a bean connoisseur. But for now, can you help me make bland, too-soft, every day beans?

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  1. White beans of any kind. What will add depth to your dish is carmelized onion, carrot and celery; a mirepoix cooked low and slow. With some salt and pepper, a delicious plate of beans. You could also head in France's direction: white beans again, seasoned with onion and rosemary. The above additions wouldn't hurt this either. And always, always when you have a birdy carcass on hand, or some bones to roast, do it! And make a stock out of it and use it to cook your beans down in. One caveat though; it's a long-held belief with me that beans tend to "sieze" if cooked with salt added, so make sure the stock you use is very low in sodium.

    5 Replies
    1. re: mamachef

      Can you explain a bit what you mean by "seize?" Do you mean that they won't soften?

      1. re: Glencora

        Exactly, Glencora. In my experience a high-sodium cooking medium retards the cooking process right at the "al dente" point, which IMO beans should be cooked beyond. Many, I'm sure, would digress, and they are free to do so, but I know what I know. :-)

        1. re: mamachef

          I agree - I even tried chicken stock once and felt like it took forever for the beans to become soft.

          1. re: mamachef

            I'm with y ou on the salting of dried beans, mamachef. I also "know what I know (from experience!)

        2. re: mamachef

          I've been cooking beans for well over 50 years (pinto beans) and was taught by my mom that it is impossible to salt beans once they have been cooked, the exception being if you boil some water with salt in it, you can add for a slight improved flavor of the beans. My findings are that if you buy beans in a package, they are probably old beans and will not get as tender as you would like regardless. I always buy the beans loose in a bin and have always had excellent results. They are the younger beans with a higher turnover. Not all types of beans are offered loose. We eat a lot of pinto beans, juicy from the pot, refried, in soups and our favorite way, frijoles con chile chicharrone.

          That said, for easy, tasty and good in cold weather, I either cook a pot of beans or if not able to, open a couple of cans of pinto beans, heat them then cut up fresh tomato, onions, a little cilantro and jalapeno to taste and they are delish. You asked for simple.

        3. I make at least one batch of beans every week. I soak the beans in water overnight. In the morning, put in a saucepan, cover with water and heat to boiling. Turn down to a high simmer, add more water when needed and cook until soft. I save some of the liquid, too. Rinse the beans and they are ready to eat! I like to saute onion, garlic and sometimes jalapeno minced w/a little olive oil and cooking liquid, add some seasoning (salt, pepper, cumin, etc.) then mash with a potato masher so they are still chunky. Top with a little cilantro and sour cream - delicious alone, over rice, etc. Same method for pinto, I use rosemary and chicken stock for northern beans.

          BTW, for low-sodium chili, I soak a mixture of beans overnight, cook until soft, set aside. Saute 1-2 onions and 2-4 carrots (chopped together in food processor to desired consistency) until translucent and soft. Add a chopped jalapeno and 3 cloves of garlic, cooking until fragrant. I add a restaurant-sized can of crushed tomatoes and tomato sauce (about $3 at Sam's). Then I add chili powder, cumin, coriander, salt & pepper and the beans. Heat to low boil and them simmer for about 20 minutes. It freezes very well!

          2 Replies
          1. re: sherrycakes

            I love the big-batch beans, sherrycakes. What do you serve yours with?

            1. re: mamachef

              I usually make up a big batch of brown rice (made with chicken stock) and eat that w/the beans and chicken breast for lunch during the week. We thin the beans with some veggie stock (my son's a vegetarian) and eat it like a soup, add a little cilantro, bean burritos, beans and cornbread (ala Pioneer Woman), etc.

          2. When I pressure-cook soaked dried beans, I get more of a canned texture than when I simmer them in a regular pot. Maybe that's because they usually get a little overcooked in my ancient pressure cooker. Or maybe it's because I don't cook them in the pressure cooker directly. I put the soaked beans in a bowl, then cover them with water to the depth of an inch. I put the bowl on a rack over a half inch of water in the pressure cooker. I do rice the same way - so I'm using the same bowl I'll be serving from and in which I'll be refrigerating any that's left over. It eliminates the need to wash the pressure cooker.

            1. lidia bastianich does the MOST AMAZING thing with dried white beans and it is made with only pantry items. it is *always* a hit in my house. it's from her family table book and you can add a variety of things to the finished product. i put in chard or julianned zucchini.

              it's really delicious.

              Garlicky White Beans and Broth

              For cooking the beans:
              1 pound (about 2 1/2 cups) dry cannellini or other small dried white beans, soaked overnight.
              4 quarts cold water, plus more if needed
              3 bay leaves
              1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
              1 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more if needed

              For the Garlicky Soffritoo
              3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
              6 big garlic cloves, sliced
              1/4 to 1/2 teasppon dried peperoncino (hot red pepper flakes)

              Cooking the Beans:
              Drain and rinse the beans and pum them in a pot with the water, bay leaves, and olive oil. Cover the pot and bring it to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally. When the water is at a full bol, set the cover ajar, adjust the heat to maintain a steady gentle boiling, and coof for an hour more, until the beans are tender.
              Stir in the salt, uncover, and continue cooking at a bubbling boil for another hour or more, until the beans and broth have reduced to 3 quarts. Lower the heat as the liquid evaporates, and the soup base thickens, stirring now and then to prevent scorching.

              Flavoring the Base with the Soffritto:
              When the soup base if sufficiently reduced, make the soffritto. Heat the olive oil and the sliced garlic in the skillet over medium heat for 2 minutes or so, shaking the pan now and then, until the slices are sizzling. Drop in the peperoncino, stir with the garlic and cook another minute, or until the garlic is just starting to color.
              From the soup pot, ladle out a cup of the simmering bean broth and pour it into the skillet. Let it sizzle and start to boil, shake and stir up the soffritto, and cook it for a couple of minutes in teh broth. Then pour it all back into the bean pot, scraping in every bit of the soffritto, or just rinse the skillet out with more broth. Simmer the soup base for another 5 mintues with the soffritto, then remover from the heat.

              The base is ready for a finished soup now; or let the whole pot cool, pick out and discard teh bay leaves, and keep the soup refrigerated for 3-4 days or freeze, n filled and tightly sealed containers for 4-to 6 months.

              1. Crock pots are second-rate for most recipes, I find, but they work wonders with beans. You don't even need to soak them....just start them on "low" early in the day (adding your aromatics--sauteed garlic, onions, carrots, maybe a hot pepper?) with plenty of water. Voila! Perfectly cooked, tender, and not broken or mushy. (don't add salt till the last few hours).

                A source for wonderful bean recipes (and wonderful beans!!!) is here: Check out Steve Sando's blog, especially, for great recipes.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Beckyleach

                  Oh, you can start them at bed time, too, if you want some for lunch, instead. Waking to the scent of beans isn't so great (bleah....I'm a Morning Queasy Stomach person) but you get used to it.