My family was on vacation last week, and starting today, we were thrust back into our summer routine of day camp, parents’ morning out, meetings, running, sitters, and the weekly runs to the supermarket and Target. (The bi-weekly Costco run is saved for Tuesday – exciting!) So at Target, of course I picked up a weekly whiteboard:
I think my 5-year-old is as excited as I am about the menu board, so much so that I had to erase my original scrawled menu and rewrite everything neatly so he could actually read what’s in store for him this week.
In the meantime, beans. I love beans. Back in the day, when I was single and living large in an apartment in Virginia-Highlands, I ate beans dinner probably three times a week. Beans and rice, black bean cakes, black bean quesadillas, beans with a squirt of lime and fresh corn tortillas… I am a fan of the legume. (As I recall my copious bean consumption, I’m sort of mystified as to how I simultaneously managed to eat all these beans and still have a vital social life. I guess Steve Sando and Vanessa Barrington are on to something when they write, “The only thing you can do to prevent gas is to eat beans more often, and your body will learn how to digest them.”)
I concede that it’s easy enough to just open up a can of beans, but when I discovered Rancho Gordo beans, I figured out pretty fast that the best thing to do with leftover beans is to freeze them in small portions. One can of beans is equal to about 1.5 cups of cooked beans plus a little pot liquor (that’s the bean broth); I generally freeze beans in 2-cup portions, since I use several recipes that call for 2-cup portions.
There’s not much to say as to how to cook the beans. I just rinse a pound or two of dried beans in a colander, pick out any stones or funny-looking beans, put them in a big, heavy pot, cover them with water, and cook them until they’re tender. If I’m making the beans for a specific recipe, I’ll include a ham hock or some onion or whatever the recipe calls for, but if I’m just making beans to have on hand, I don’t add anything except the cooking water. I add salt right when they’re tender. Not unlike fresh corn, if you add salt to the water while the beans are cooking, the skin will toughen up. Then I scoop my desired portion into quart-size freezer bags, and whenever I need beans for a recipe, I pop a bag out of the freezer and I’m ready to go.
They’re great for black bean soup (Mark Bittman has a fantastic, fast, simple recipe in How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, black bean cakes, and my lunch tomorrow: black beans with cumin, cilantro, lime, and this fantastic cheese a friend’s brother brought back from a recent trip to Honduras.
While I prefer cooking and freezing my own beans to canned beans because I can use fancy-schmancy heirloom varieties, freezing beans is also extremely economical: today, since I’m in between Rancho Gordo orders, I used black turtle beans that I bought from the bulk section at Whole Foods for $1.69 per pound. That’s less than $0.25 per cup of cooked beans. If I had used Rancho Gordo Midnight Black beans, which cost $4.95 per pound, it would cost about $0.70 per cup of cooked beans, which is still much less expensive than any canned black bean.
…So eat your beans with every meal!