Black beans, inky as night, are on my short list of desert island foods. So is the mighty and ridiculously versatile garbanzo. A week doesn't go by without jars of bean projects in our refrigerator, so I suppose you could call me a beanophile.
Having developed dozens of bean-centric recipes over the past decade, I have made it a personal mission to get more people to join me on a leguminous journey.
Beans are, after all, incredibly nourishing, an excellent source of fiber, protein, iron, folate, potassium and calcium. They fill you up, teach you about different cuisines and save you money. (If you’re thinking, with all this bean cheerleading, she must be a vegetarian. Guess what? She’s not.)
The original plan for this story was to report on two new books on the topic — “Cool Beans” by Joe Yonan, the food editor at The Washington Post, and the forthcoming “Rancho Gordo Heirloom Bean Guide” by Steve Sando and Julia Newberry (April 6).
As founder of Rancho Gordo, a Napa, California-based heirloom bean purveyor, Sando has helped to change the collective conversation about beans, working with small farmers, saving seeds and introducing Americans to dozens of little-known varieties.
His bean club has a bit of a cult following, with thousands of subscribers (including yours truly) receiving quarterly shipments. Beans, it could be argued, have become hip.
But in the wake of the coronavirus shutdown, beans are taking on a new persona in our rapidly changing world — from hip blip on the trendometer to sustenance.
If ever there was a time to learn how to cook a pot of beans, it would be now. It is one of those life skills you'll never forget, and one you can pass on to your kids and neighbors. More than ever, we need to know how to feed ourselves, and beans are an amazing way in.
BASIC POT OF STOVETOP BEANS
Most varieties of dried beans double in volume when soaked and will continue to expand while cooking. Chickpeas typically triple in volume. Be sure to do the math.
Makes 5 to 6 cups beans.
- 2 cups dried beans, rinsed
- 2 whole cloves garlic, peeled
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
Place the beans in a large bowl and add enough cold water so that they are covered by a few inches. Soak for a minimum of four hours.
Drain and transfer to a heavy-bottomed pot fitted with a lid.
Add enough cold water to cover by 1 inch, 6 to 8 cups. Add the garlic and bring the mixture to a boil over high heat. Cook at a hard boil for 5 minutes, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and cook at a gentle simmer for 25 minutes.
Add the salt, cover and cook for another 35 minutes. Taste the beans for doneness; if they are not tender to the bite, check at 10-minute intervals until done.
FALAFEL-STYLE CHICKPEA PATTIES WITH TAHINI SAUCE
I’ve taken the deep-fry out of this popular Middle Eastern snack. Instead of little balls, I’ve shaped this spiced chickpea batter into patties, which are pan-fried and finished in the oven. These reheat well and make splendid leftovers. Note: Beans are soaked and pulverized but never cooked. Details below.
Excerpted from “The Meat Lover’s Meatless Cookbook,” by Kim O'Donnel.
Makes 7 or 8 patties.
- 1 cup dried chickpeas
- 1 1/2 cups finely chopped onion (1 medium onion)
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1/2 cup fresh cilantro or parsley, chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup olive oil
- Optional garnishes: 1 thinly sliced cucumber; thinly sliced red onion, radishes or tomatoes; your favorite hot sauce
Kitchen notes: Dried chickpeas are a must for these patties; canned chick- peas are simply too soft.
Place the beans in a bowl and add enough water to cover by a few inches. Soak for at least 6 hours at room temperature. (If your kitchen is very warm, place in the refrigerator to minimize the chances of fermentation.)
Drain and set aside.
Using a food processor, pulverize the chickpeas using the “pulse” function, until the beans form a paste that sticks together when you squeeze it in your hand. Be careful not to overprocess; too smooth, the batter will fall apart when cooking.
Add the remaining ingredients (except the oil) and process, using the “pulse” function about 12 times.
Using a scant 1/3-cup measure, shape the batter into patties and place on a plate. Cover the patties with parchment paper or plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes, or until firm.
Heat the oven to 300 F.
In a shallow 12-inch skillet, heat 1/4 cup of the oil over medium-high heat. Gently place the patties into the hot oil in small batches (don't crowd the pan) and fry the first side until golden brown and slightly crusty, 2 to 3 minutes.
Gently turn onto the second side and cook for an additional 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a baking tray to finish cooking in the oven until the patties slightly firm up and dry out, about 7 minutes. Use the remaining oil as needed.
Serve with tahini sauce and condiments of your choice. These are great as part of a salad or tucked into a soft bun or a toasted pita.
Five minutes is all you need to make this staple sauce of the Middle Eastern pantry, starring tehina, a paste made from ground sesame seeds. You may learn quickly how delicious it is smeared on or dipped in everything, including an old shoe. (Kidding — kind of.) Make a bunch, keep in the refrigerator and it just might become your new go-to flavor zipper upper.
Makes about 2 cups
5 cloves garlic, smashed
5 tablespoons lemon juice (from about 2 lemons)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup tehina, stirred well before using
1/2 to 3/4 cup cold water
Place the garlic, lemon juice and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt in a blender or mini-chopper.
Pulverize until the mixture is blended but still slightly chunky. Transfer to a bowl. Add the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt and mix together with a fork.
You'll notice the mixture quickly thickens. Gradually add the water, while stirring, until you have a creamy but pourable sauce.