Remember that rhyme? “Beans, beans, are good for the heart. . ..”
It was oh so funny when we were small. What is it with kids and farting? I wonder why farting is so funny? Curious. In any event…. My friend Kathy Patton taught me about beans. Real beans. The good ones and there are so so so many kinds. Kathy started talking about beans once when Alan and I went up to visit her and John in Santa Barbara. Initially I kind of blew her off actually. She was zealot-like a ‘moonie’ when she was talking about a pot of beans. Rancho Gordo beans. I was like ‘whatever.’ I pretended to be interested. Wasn’t really. But then she just kept talking about the beans and how good they were and how fresh they were and how delicious they tasted and how easy they are to make. She took out her bean packages – like 10 of them (weird) – but actually I liked the packaging – which looked real good and intriguing. Then she pulled out the book called Heirloom Beans by Sando & Barrington and honestly, it looked bona fide.
Then she told me to take the book. Then she gave me a bag of beans. That was the beginning. I read the book. I held the bag of beans a lot. I was intrigued. I called Kathy. We talked about different cooking methods. I decided to try the “Parsons Method” (p. 25) and I was hooked. A simple pot of beans. When I was in Oaxaca, Mexico last February my Tia who lives there gave me her clay bean pot. I love to use it to cook the beans. I am now a bean fanatic – just like Kathy. I gave my big brother Eric the book and a box of Rancho Gordon beans (didn’t get a response…. Uh oh….). I have given the book and some beans to friends, for gifts. I’ve got Rancho Gordo listed as a “Favorite Link” on my Home page and I love to buy their beans – I have my favorites… yup. Rancho Gordo is also doing a bean project with farmers in Mexico – which you can read about at their website ranchogordo.com.
So I don’t know about the farting thing but the beans I love. And get this, my friends Disa Fink and Niels Thomsen owners of Wintercoat brewery (wintercoat.dk) who live in Denmark – grow their own fresh beans in addition to brewing awesome beer. They get them here in Los Angeles when they visit – dried heirlooms – and take them back and grow them on their farm and then they save the seeds (beans), dry them, and do it again. They’re kind of bean-nuts also – well really just major foodies (and beeries) all around…. I love it – and them. You might become a bean-nut too.
Here we go….
You want good, fresh beans – dried. They shouldn’t be more than a year or two from harvest so get a good supplier – like Rancho Gordo (ranchogordo.com). My favorite beans are called Good Mother Stallard Beans. Honestly – that’s the name of the beans. They’re really great. They have good texture. Good flavor. They make a nice broth. I fell in love with them the first time I tried them.
This is how I make my beans.
I make a mirepoix – so simple. This is all I add in the beginning. Best not to add much else until the beans are cooked or almost cooked. There are all sorts of theories about cooking beans and if the water you start with should be cold (tough skins) or hot or room temperature. If the beans should be soaked. If salt should be added in the beginning, middle, end, or not at all. If you should use the soaking water to cook the beans in, or not. When you should add acidic components like lime, vinegar or tomatoes (usually not until they’re done), etc., etc, etc. And then there’s the big question – what to do once you have made the Simple Pot of Beans. Are you a purist and just planning on eating the pot of beans as is? Or are you going somewhere with them…. A stew? A bean-dip? A soup. You can go anywhere with this.
A Simple Pot of Beans
(Heirloom Beans by Steve Sando and Vanessa Barrington from Rancho Gordo)
Preheat oven to 350°
Soak a pound of Good Mother Stallard Beans or other bean (Eye of the Goat Beans, Eye of the Tiger Beans, Cannellini Beans, Borlotti Beans (Cranberry Beans), and on and on. I soak for 6 to 8 hours – maybe even overnight.
½ lb yellow onion, diced
¼ lb carrots, diced
¼ lb celery, diced. You can use more if you want, just make sure the proportions are correct. Simple as pie, eh?
In the bean-pot or dutch oven (Le Cruset is good), put in a glug of good olive oil. Heat the oil. Add the mirepoix. Cook for a few minutes.
1 lb of good quality, fresh but dried beans soaked
6 cups of homemade vegetable stock or water (I use Mark Bittman’s recipe and make my own roasted vegetable stock which makes a big difference but if you don’t have the time or inclination use some organic vegetable stock or chicken stock if you want but should be no salt broth)
2 tsp of salt
Add the beans to the mirepoix – same pot. Add in the 6 cups of stock/water Bring to a boil on the stove top and then simmer for five-minutes. Cover the beans and put the pot into the 350° oven. Bake until the beans are done – usually about two-hours. About half-way through check on the beans to make sure there’s enough broth/water. Add more if necessary and add the salt at this point.
When the beans are done, gather your friends, family or self. Put some beans into a bowl. Sprinkle a little grated parmesan on top. Drizzle with a little good olive oil and a sprinkle of fleur de sel – maybe a squeeze of lime. Eat. Heavenly good. You could make a simple salad too – maybe a good sourdough baguette – but not necessary. The beans in my house, once cooked, go fast.