Wednesday, May 27, 2009


I have a confession to make: I am a dried-bean novice.

And I eat a lot of beans. After being vegetarian for about 15 years, I have only used lentils in their dried state. (Do lentils even count? They take no time.) Other beans just seemed like too much work.

I've been satisfied with canned beans—they're a great convenience food and really good for you. It's so simple to just open a can, rinse the beans, and add them to a recipe or salad.

While shopping last weekend, I finally decided to take the plunge and make dried beans instead of canned. I chose black beans, because they're one of my favorites and I could imagine using a whole batch in just a few days.

I was getting ready to soak the beans before going to bed Monday night. Just for good measure, I checked with the old standby, The Joy of Cooking, which suggested that black beans don't need to be soaked at all. Apparently, soaking them only eliminates a tiny portion of the gas-causing sugars.

So I went to bed and left the bean-making for yesterday.

After picking over and rinsing the beans, I just boiled them with a chopped onion and jalapeno, adding salt and pepper when they were almost done.

And the results?

Holy crap! My black beans are actually black! I've always hated how my black beans turn out brown after I cook them out of a can with other ingredients. Seeing perfectly black black beans in restaurants was frustrating.

Who knew all it would take was a super-simple method of cooking dried beans? OK, probably a lot of people, but whoa—I am so happy with these. They're prettier, have a firmer bite and taste better than their canned counterparts.

The only sad thing is that the process stained my favorite pot. It's enameled cast-iron, and its creamy interior has been stained before. I think the blue-black ring should come out with further cooking or a good baking soda scrubbing.

I am definitely going to be using dried beans more often. They're much easier to use than I thought, not to mention delicious.

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