Play around with the dried beans you purchase. Some are straightforward (pinto, lima, navy/white, kidney). Others are more exotic: cranberry, Anasazi, flageolet. All are worthy competitors to the beans in cans.
So, there are a few ways of getting from dried bean to bountiful bean perfection.
First: Let's call it Jen's Method. You take a large sauce pan that has a lid and put your quantity of beans in and cover them with water, putting the lid on top. Turn your stove on high (don't leave!) and wait for the beans to come to a boil. Boil for one minute. Turn off the heat, and let the beans sit for one hour on the stovetop, covered. After one hour, drain the beans, cover again with water (and add any aromatics you might like) and keep covered at a low simmer for 45 minutes to an hour and a half (test beans at 45 minutes by removing a few from the pot with a spoon, allowing them to cool, and pinching them with your fingers). Jen is my neighbor who channels Emeril Lagasse's Cajun/Creole cooking. Her red beans and rice are the things parties are made of.
Second: Overnight Soak. You take a large bowl and put your beans in it and cover completely with water. Allow the beans to soak overnight. They will absorb the water and plump up overnight. In the morning, or when you're ready to cook them, drain them. Place the beans in a large sauce pan with a lid and again cover the beans with water (add any aromatics you might like, such as sliced garlic or onion). Bring them to a boil covered, boil for about one minute, and reduce the heat to a low simmer and continue to cook for 45 minutes to an hour and a half, checking the beans at 45 minutes.
Third: Pressure Cooker. I don't happen to have one, though early childhood memories indicate I took the steam tick-tocker off the top of one when my mother was cooking potatoes. I got yelled at as the family anticipated an explosion of potatoes on the kitchen ceiling (it didn't happen). My friend Susan has a pressure cooker and she swears by it. If you have one, use it for beans!
|Apologies for the dark photos. The lighting in the hotel/apartment kitchen was subpar for photos.|
|Anasazi beans with pulled pork and beet salad|