It always surprises me when I meet people who don’t know how to cook. This is what led me to write my Food Camp cookbook, a guide for adults who never learned the basic recipes that serve as the foundation for most any successful meal. For the next few months here on Great Plates, we are going to deconstruct some essential and basic recipes that everyone should know how to make. For the first installment of the Kitchen Essentials series, let’s get serious about dried beans.
Dried beans are often avoided in the grocery store, because of two popular misconceptions relating to time and difficulty. Anyone who thinks cooking dried beans is too much work has never done it the right way. As for difficulty, it is not complicated, if you just remember to soak them first.
If you’re looking for reasons to give cooking dried beans a try, consider these facts:
- On average, dried beans cost half as much per serving as canned
- A 1/2 cup serving of cooked dried beans contains 8g of protein
- Beans are also high in fiber, iron,
- They are cholesterol-free
How do I cook dried beans?
Let’s start with a few basic tips for cooking dried beans.
The night before:
- Empty the dried beans into a shallow baking dish. Quickly sort through the beans, discarding broken or shriveled beans and any other debris that might be present.
- Transfer the beans to a stockpot and cover with about two inches of water.
- Cover and allow the beans to soak overnight.
The next day:
- Drain and rinse soaked beans and return them to the stockpot.
- Cover with fresh water and bring to a boil. Keep the beans boiling for 10 minutes.
- Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until beans are tender, adding water as needed to keep them from sticking. This may take anywhere from 30 minutes to about 2 hours, depending on the type of beans and their age.
- I add my flavoring ingredients (herbs, seasonings, onion, garlic) during the last 20 minutes of the cooking process.
How do I store cooked dried beans?
Cooked dried beans will keep in the fridge for 3-5 days on average. I cook a pound of beans (or more) at a time, and freeze what I don’t immediately use in two-cup portions. That’s a little more than you’d get in the average can of beans at the grocery store, and I have found it to be just right for most recipes. Freezer bags are great for this.
What do I do with dried beans?
If you need some ideas for using your dried beans in recipes, I’ve got a few. Take a look back at my January 2015 column and you’ll find a great Slow Cooker 3 Bean Chili recipe. You can also make a refreshing and zesty salad. Just drain and cool some black beans and mix them in a bowl with equal parts whole kernel corn, chopped onion, & diced tomato. Toss with chopped cilantro, olive oil, lime juice, salt & pepper and chill for an hour before serving. Red beans and rice? That comes together in a snap. You can simply sauté an onion and sweet peppers until they soften a little, then stir in a can of tomatoes. Mix the beans with precooked rice and stir to combine. Season to taste and you now have a side dish that will easily take center stage!
Here’s a recipe that will make just about anyone happy. Hummus is a delicious dip made from chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans), and you might be surprised just how easy it is to make at home. You’ll want to keep this recipes close by. It`s popular at most gatherings and you will likely be asked to make it again and again.
- 2 cups cooked chickpeas
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 2 Tablespoons tahini
- A large garlic clove, minced
- Juice of a large lemon
- salt to taste
- smoky paprika (optional, but recommended)
- Add all ingredients to the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times to break up the chickpeas.
- Use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
- Process for about 60 seconds, scraping the sides as needed. If you need to add more oil, drizzle it in a Tablespoon at a time. I usually use a bit of the cooking liquid in place of more oil.
Michael Nolan is a professional gardener and food writer based in Atlanta, GA. His digital cookbook, Food Camp: Kitchen Survival Skills, is available on Amazon.com or through his website MyEarthGarden.com.