A Pot of Beans, Straight Out of Your Dreams
A visual recipe for mastering and customizing this infinitely variable ingredient
We can guess what you're probably thinking: Enough already with the beans. The New Year good-luck moment is over. Both facts are undeniably true: There’s already a lot here on legumes, including Mark's basic bean cooking recipe. And we hope that those leftover black-eyed peas in the fridge will inspire you to cook a pot of something — it doesn’t even have to be beans — as part of your plan to eat better in 2023.
While we know many of you love beans like we do, today we're taking a step back and attempting to demystify them for those of you who don't cook them regularly — here, a master recipe in the form of a step-by-step guide. The model here is dubbed “Antipasto Big Beans.” But the point is that to fend off potential boredom, every pot can and should be different. This filmstrip of photos and captions identifies how and when to vary components and seasonings, while offering a simple technique for walk-away stovetop simmering without pre-soaking.
Obviously there are many methods for cooking beans, many of which are covered in The Bittman Project Recipe Archive—where there is a whole section on beans. Our hope is to spark conversation about your methods, sources, and ingredients, too. So let's get started.
Pick your bean. Here, a shot of what was in the pantry. Clockwise from top left:
The large limas used here (often called gigantes)
Green baby limas (a little like the flageolet common to cassoulet)
Dried nixtamalized blue corn (known as hominy, posole, or pozole), included as a bean alternative as are wheat, rye, or whole barley kernels and raw peanuts or cashews
Disk-shaped tepary beans from the Sonoran desert
Mayocoba, a creamy and golden variety native to Peru that's grown by one of the farmers at my local market
If you planned ahead and like to pre-soak, now is the time. (Mark's recipe tells you how.) Figure a pound yields six to eight servings.
Frizzle something. Start by heating a thin film of olive oil (or more neutral oil, like vegetable or even coconut), and then add a little bit of meat. These are shreds of leftover holiday salami, but you could use anything previously cooked or start with raw chopped or ground meat or poultry (or sausage). (Shown is 6 ounces for 1 pound of limas.) To keep the pot plant-based, try bits of wakame or dulse seaweed, chopped nuts, or crumbled tofu or tempeh. If you've got a ham hock or bone or something smoked like a pork chop, links, or a turkey leg (a personal favorite), hang on to it; you can add it later.