Just a pot of beans, simmering on the stove. Simple and healthy.
Beans cooked perfectly hold their structure, are creamy inside and are one of the best forms of fiber you can eat.
I try and make a pot of beans at least once a month. I will make a big pot and freeze half. Busy days when I start thinking about dinner an hour before I am going to serve it I am grateful for my stocked freezer.
Beans are also a great way to break the habit of the center of your plate being a piece of meat.
“The protein-centric dinner plate, whether you’re talking about a boneless chicken breast, or a 16-ounce steak, as an everyday expectation is something that America really created, and now exports to the rest of the world.” -Chef Dan Barber (TED talk “How I fell in love with Fish.”
As a professional chef I get invited to the yearly food shows put on by the food distributors like Sysco, Shamrock and US Foods. You know, the big trucks that pull up to restaurants in the morning clogging up alleys and disgorging everything a restaurant could need including the kitchen sink.
The biggest part of these food shows would be called “center of plate” and it would be a section of meats and poultry. Mostly big cuts of expensive beef.
I stopped going to the food shows since meat and fried foods seemed to be the majority of the food on display. I have heard that has changed but I have not been to a food show in years. Hopefully it is a convention center full of organic farmers, environmental products and whole grain foods but I am pretty sure the fried foods still dominate the show.
I did get some amazing truffle honey at a food show one year.
Eating meat with every meal as the center of you plate is a tasty way to live but it is not a sustainable way to eat. By sustainable I do mean earth friendly. Methane, rain forest depletion for cattle farming and all that madness does concern me. I choose to live a tasty life with less meat and more veggies. I do still love meat but just not all the time. I am not about to give up a perfectly grilled rib eye or some super tender brisket cooked low and slow but I do limit meat consumption.
Beans are perfect solution for replacing meat as the center of your plate and your waist line and planet should thank you.
This week I made pinto beans but this recipe works well with black beans, great northern beans or adzuki beans.
I used my favorite method of cooking beans where you brine them overnight before cooking. When I first tried this method I thought the beans would come out salty but the beans were perfectly seasoned. This is the only method that I know of that creates a tender overall creamy bean without the bean falling apart.
My family enjoyed these beans on whole grain tortillas with locally made goat cheese and some freshly picked from my little urban farm organic greens. I also made a tasty bean dip with smoked onion salsa and lots of fresh cilantro as well as making some spicy barbecue baked beans to go with the last of the frozen collard greens from the previous seasons garden.
This years collards are ready to pick so we had to finish last seasons greens.
The ratio for using a brine to create perfect beans is 1 pound dried beans and 3 tablespoons of salt per 4 quarts of water. Let your beans soak overnight or up to 8 hours. Rinse the beans well before cooking.
I like to add herbs, garlic, onions and bacon to my cooked beans for a smoky and rich flavor. Adding a little bit of bacon adds a depth of flavor that you cannot get from onions and garlic alone.
- 1 lb organic dried whole pinto beans
- 3 tablespoons kosher salt
- ¼ lb thick sliced bacon diced
- ½ large yellow onion minced
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 2 tablespoons dried herbs such as oregano, thyme, bay leaf and parsley
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- salt and pepper to taste
- Soak beans overnight in 4 quarts water with 3 tablespoons kosher salt.
- Rinse beans well before cooking.
- Saute bacon in a heavy skillet until browned. Set aside bacon and pour out half of the grease leaving half in the pan to saute the onions.
- Add onions and cooking until slightly browned.
- Add garlic and cook for one minute.
- Add beans, herbs, bacon, garlic, and onion to a large pot and cover with filtered water about 4-6 quarts.
- Simmer beans for 1 hour and check and see if they are tender.
- Continue to simmer beans until tender. If there is still excess water in the pot you can drain it off but I find most of the water evaporates during cooking.
- Add apple cider vinegar at the end of cooking.
Adding a little bit of apple cider vinegar to your beans at the end of cooking will brighten the flavors and add a pleasing complexity to the dish.
Last year we had a record apple crop in Colorado and I tried my hand at making apple cider vinegar. The clean and fresh apple aroma that rises from the bottle when you open it is beautiful. Just a little patience to let the apples ferment and you have a clean and flavorful apple cider vinegar.