It wasn’t until three or four years ago that I learned how to cook dry beans. I had never cooked them because most recipes I read called for soaking the beans overnight and picking out stones. Planning dinner a half hour ahead is a lot of work—planning it a day in advance seemed unbearable. I also didn’t understand the purpose of soaking the beans, I didn’t understand why there would be stones in the beans, and I wasn’t sure what to do with the beans once I’d cooked them.
After cooking dry beans on many, many occasions the past several years, I can announce that I still don’t know the answer to most bean mysteries. I can also announce that I don’t care. I’ve found a simple way of cooking dried beans that doesn’t require preplanning and makes the most wonderful warm, tender beans. I make the beans about once a week, or every other week, and to my surprise, they’ve become a kid favorite.
I began making beans to add substance to meals when we were having salad with no meat. When eating little or no meat, it’s important to actively look for sources of protein, and beans quickly emerge as one of the best options. Now, I see how well they stand on their own, and don’t think of them as an alternative, but as a perfectly fulfilling meal.
I still serve them alongside a salad, on top of salads, as a side dish to quesadillas, as a side dish to sandwiches or soups, on top of fresh tomatoes marinated with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, or with a piece of fish. On the second day, I throw them in soups, eat them alongside scrambled eggs for breakfast, mash them into bean burgers, or reheat them as a main dish.
makes eight servings
1 lb. dry beans (cannellini, white, Great Northern or pinto)
3 cloves garlic, sliced
½ onion, minced
3 sprigs rosemary
Rinse beans (picking out anything that doesn’t look like a bean) and put them in the slow-cooker with the garlic, onion, rosemary and 8 cups of water. Cook on high until the beans are tender (usually between 3 or 3 ½ hours). Drain the beans and throw out the rosemary. Serve warm with salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil on top.