I didn't have many recipes passed down to me. My family is not really a family of cooks. I don't remember a single home-cooked meal from my childhood aside from dinners at my grandma's house. Oh, and that one time I threw up all the macaroni and cheese. Let's not talk about that.
I believe, though, that I may be a cook. And I can share that with my family, but also with you. It breaks me to know that people don't know how to cook even simple things these days. I know we can fix that. I know that most people that can't cook wish that they could. But you have to start with the basics.
The Basics is going to be a column here on Lizzy, where I share with you easy techniques and cooking skills that will be the building blocks for so many beautiful dishes that you will someday make. I will teach you how to roast perfect vegetables, how to make fluffy mashed potatoes (I have yet to master this), knife skills and so much more.
Today we are starting with beans.Though slightly time-consuming, cooking beans is almost entirely hands-off and cooking with dried beans will yield creamier, firmer, more delicious beans. And bonus - it's way less expensive than canned. It's a basic skill that will change you, as will substituting beans for meat in many of your meals. So let's get started.
Start with your dried beans. The fresher your beans, the better, but I'm not judging. I really like Bob's Red Mill. Here, I just worked with 1/2 cup of cannellini beans, but if you want to cook a whole bag of beans, the rules still apply.
Submerge your dried beans in a bowl of fresh water and soak overnight. This is the part where some forethought is going to reward you big time. If you fill your pantry with dried beans, you will have no choice but to discipline yourself into doing this.
At first, your beans will look wrinkled and strange, but as they soak, they will plump up, but still be firm. If you forget about them the first day, don't worry. I have left beans to soak for two nights with no problem.
When you are ready to cook your beans, drain them and place in a large pot.
Fill the pot with fresh water to just about 1-2 inches above the beans.
You can be creative here if you wish- I like to add a bay leaf because it makes my kitchen smell special, but you could also add chopped carrots, onions, garlic or leave them plain.
Bring your beans to a boil over medium-high to high heat and then reduce to a simmer (little bubbles) over medium-low heat. Stir occasionally to make sure your beans don't stick to the bottom of your pot.
Now, how long your beans will need to cook will depend on how fresh they are and what kind they are. It can take anywhere from 45 minutes to 3 hours.
How do you check them? Take a bean out of the pot with a wooden spoon (be careful!) and either try to eat it or what I like to do is take a clean kitchen towel and try to smoosh the bean. You will be able to tell how soft it is when you smoosh it. When you feel like they are getting close, add a couple pinches of kosher salt and let finish simmering another 15 minutes or so.
Turn off the heat. Sometimes if I am very busy, I just leave them in the pot on my stove for a while and sometimes I can get to them right away.
You can put them in canning jars (with or without the broth- some people like to use this broth in their cooking) or tupperware containers or freezer containers or ziploc bags. If you cooked a whole bag, you can easily freeze a bunch of them in individual portions and defrost them or throw them in a pot of soup later.
And that's it. You cooked dried beans! Big rewards!