Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Not very Beautiful Beans & stuff

I am thinking about this cake.
I would make it, but I can't.
Lent and all.
I'll plan to make this for Easter, I think.  I can't imagine any better ideas coming.
Can you?  the perfect party cake + lemon syrup + black tea frosting.
(My tea will be Earl Grey with lavender)

But let's not talk about cake right now.
Let's talk about beans, right?
We've are on day 7 of our simple eating.
I had told the kids no fancy food during our 40 days.
Peyton then renamed it as- no beautiful food allowed.
He'll ask, Mom, is milk beautiful? etc.

I was feeling rather proud of myself for how well we were doing.
Baking our bread, boiling our beans & thinking it all tasted good,
spending $15 dollars at the grocery store for vegetables & tortillas.
And then came yesterday.
Aunt Flo came for her monthly visit.
It wasn't exactly a surprise.
But it was a bit surprising how much more painful the lack of treats became.
I have a huge box of girl scout cookies that didn't get delivered until Lent had already begun.
(huge bummer.  I usually eat one whole box on the day I get my order.)
Boy, did I want a glass of wine.
And my husband was tempted to give me one.  (He is ultra safe.)
We did put Biore strips on our faces & watched 3 episodes on Downton Abbey.
He is a good friend to me.  

And with all that I forgot, for the first time this week, to put my pot of beans on to soak.
I had to do the quick soak/boil version.  I always get nervous about this.
I like to be traditional on the soaking of beans.  It feels safer.
I have had more than a couple nights in my married life
when I have had to declare last minute that dinner was inedible,
due to beans not cooking all the way.
(I also have had a Sunday meal in singlehood when I served up
hard as rock while bean chili to my whole family, plus another entire family, plus Scott.
When he & I were "just friends".
In a effort to prove his devotion, he ate 2 full bowls &
told me it was delicious.  And got quite sick.)
White beans usually seem to be the ones I struggle with.
And wouldn't you know it, white beans are on the menu tonight.

Emergency "quick" version for dried beans -
Rinse dried beans in cold water.
Put in pot & cover with cold water + a few inches on water above beans.
Bring almost to a boil.  Cover pot & remove from heat & allow to sit for 1 hour.
Now you can carry on with cooking, which will still take a few hours.
I start my beans before lunch usually & then turn them of & let them sit.
I like to be on the safe side.
Especially right now.  No treats.  No take out dinner to the rescue.
I've got to get these white beans cooked through.

A big no-no for dried bean cooking, that I think has been the death of me
on those times when they just would not soften, is don't add the salt until the very end.
Salt will keep your beans from softening!
Make sure they are already soft before you put it in the pot.

Okay, so here's the lowdown on cooking beans.
Plan a day ahead.
Rinse your dried beans under cold water & put in your pot to soak overnight.
Water should be a couple inches above the beans.
In the morning, rinse your beans again & fill pot with water again,
to cover beans by about an inch.
Chop an onion & toss it in.  Smash a couple garlic cloves & toss them in.  Splash olive oil in.
A sprig or two of fresh thyme can be lovely &/or a chopped jalapeno.
Bring your pot to a boil then lower the heat & keep pot partially covered.
Keep your pot going at a gentle simmer & add water if needed, to keep the beans covered.
I cook my beans gently for about 3 hours.
See if they are soft before adding salt to taste, and fresh pepper, too, of course.


big hair betty said...

I'm pretty boring, usually only doing pinto or black beans. I like to add bacon. I usually just do PW's recipe, which just cooks on the stove for a few hours, no soaking overnight. Have you ever done that? It seems to work good and cuts out the having to remember the night before, no? I'll have to venture to other beans, soon.

kristen said...

erin, i read an article that said that the "salt keeps your beans from cooking" thing is actually a myth and i have found that my beans cook just fine with salt as well. when beans don't cook it is generally because they are not fresh enough. beans that are more than a year old can have trouble cooking and i think white beans are more sensitive to time than other types. in my experience that is.

Erin said...

Sara, I tasted the beans last night & said that was just what they needed - bacon. Alas, no bacon during our 40 days. :)
Kristen, you are sending me into investigation mode. Wow!! Is this an old wive's tale? I have my Harold McGee on the science and lore of cooking. I am finding you are correct. I will post my full finding when I am through reading this. I am glad you chimed in, friend!