The Musical Fruit
or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bean
The best kept secret of the online food personality complex are anchovies and beans.
With anchovies, the culinary cognescenti have long understood their allure: an umami powerhouse, lending high wattage flavor to a number of dishes from Caesar dressing to a simple pasta sauce, melted into olive oil and married with garlic and chili. In the last several years, the growing appreciation for tinned seafood has led more cooks to understand the importance of keeping a tin of anchovies in the cupboard.
Beans, however, have been privy to no such glow-up. They remain a humble staple, appreciated around the world while under appreciated on our home turf. Most folks consume a woefully small amount of beans, I’ve found. And after recently watching the Netflix series ‘Live to 100: Secrets of the Blue Zones,’ I’m convinced that beans deserve a larger spot at your dinner table. (In the show, beans play a large part in the diet of many blue zones, where people are living the longest and healthiest lives.)
I’ve been a fan for many years. In high school I began to understand the power of what healthy, whole foods could do for me (energy, vitality, toots, HEALTH!) and beans became a cornerstone of my diet. I kept cans of black beans or garbanzo beans in the pantry, and still do. They add heft and sustenance to any lazy dinner, straight from the can.
And in the early years of my relationship with my wife (then girlfriend), she gave me perhaps the single greatest gift I’ve ever received: a one year membership to The Rancho Gordo Bean Club. A proposal soon followed.
All that is to say that I’m an unabashed bean lover, and I’m here to convince you to be one, too. So much of this newsletter is simply about living, and living well. And eating well is living well.
Let me start by suggesting you get over any hesitation to deal with dried beans.
Although I’ve always got canned beans on hand, the world of beans opens up when you allow yourself the flexibility to cook from dried. Companies like Rancho Gordo offer a myriad of beautiful, complex, unique beans - by my count they offer over 30 heirloom varities. My favorites are their petite chickpeas and the big and beautiful Royal Corona Bean.
Generally I will put some in a bowl in the morning, fill it with water, and then cook the beans that evening when we are winding down from the day. You don’t need more than a large pot and water. (Otherwise you’ll need to add more as they cook, as the water continues to evaporate.) I always bring the pot to a boil, and then drop it down to a robust simmer and then put the top on. Season with salt later (but before they’re finished cooking), as the beans have softened and will more readily absorb it.
If you’re feeling fancy, you can always toss in a few cloves of garlic and any celery or carrot you have lying around. I’ll toss in any herbs that might be on their last legs, and often a few bay leaves. These are not necessities, only easy additives.
When you cook beans in this manner and keep them on hand in your fridge, you will find them to be a worthy companion to countless meals. They’re certainly good enough to eat whole, as is, but below I’ve suggested some of my favorite (easy) preparations that keep beans on heavy rotation in our home.
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