Saturday, May 26, 2007

A Mother Of A Bean

Up until recently, I'd never been much of a bean person. I actually can't remember my mother ever cooking a pot of beans. Maybe that's where my indifference came from.

Not that I've never cooked beans before. In the 70s and early 80s when I decided to be vegetarian and Molly Katzen came out with the Moosewood Cookbook, I made her Black Bean Soup a lot. Over the years, though, my bean cooking had fallen off to just short of never.

These days, however, with all the attention on getting one's fiber, eating more whole grains, beans, etc., I've re-examined my ho-hum attitude toward the lowly bean.

Did you know that beans are a high fiber, complex carbohydrate, low glycemic food that are high in B vitamins and many minerals? Or that Beans have been shown to lower cholesterol, prevent diabetes, and lower the risk of colon cancer when eaten as part of a regular diet regimen? Neither did I until I did some research.

And if health factors alone were not enough to get me on the bean wagon, discovering Rancho Gordo has also helped to renew my interest. Steve Sando is so enthusiastic about his beans he practically could make a convert out of anybody. Including me. Here is my most recent purchase of a trio of beans from the man himself: Good Mother Stallard, Black Valentine and Marrow.

These beans are clean, people! No dust, no rocks. And I found just one bean that wasn't absolutely perfect. How many of you can say that about your store-bought beans?

Firmly on that bean wagon now, this morning I began with the Good Mother Stallard: A swirl of purplish burgundy on a creamy background encases this sturdy, plump bean which holds its shape even after cooking. The taste is nutty and earthy, the mouthfeel creamy and smooth. This is a bean to dress simply so its lovely flavor and texture are not muddled. And please don't throw out the cooking liquid. It's pure gold.

Cooked with fresh (or dried) bay leaves (I'm so lucky to have a bay tree growing outside my kitchen door!) and a covering of cold water, the finished beans needed nothing more than a drizzle of olive oil, some lemon zest and a sprinkling of Maldon Sea Salt to make my eyes light up and my tongue do its happy dance.

A quick rinse under cold water and these were ready to soak. A 6-hour soak was all they needed.

They cooked to a perfect consistency in less than 1 hour.
There's no particular recipe here. I simply did the following:
Rinse the dry beans under cold water.
Place them in a large pot and cover with cold, fresh water. Throw in 3 fresh or dried bay leaves. DO NOT salt the water. This will retard the cooking of the beans and you'll end up with hard rocks. Ditto on using stock. Just use plain, cold water and you'll be rewarded.
Place the pot over high heat and bring to a boil. When a boil is reached, lower the flame to maintain a simmer, on my stove, that was low.
Allow the beans to simmer until they've reached the consistency you desire. These were well cooked in just under 1 hour. In fact, I may have overcooked them just a teeny bit.
Remove the pan from the heat and drain the beans, saving the pot liquid! The liquid these beans make, in and of itself, is worth it. Use the liquid for soups, stews, or to add back into the beans if you wish.
Discard the bay leaves.
To achieve the finished dish (photo at top of page), drizzle beans with good, extra-virgin olive oil, a teaspoon of fresh lemon zest (go ahead, squirt in some juice if you want) and a sprinkling of good sea salt. Serve warm or at room temperature.

This is my entry for Weekend Herb Blogging. My post is not really about an herb per se, but WHB includes plants, veggies, and fruits as well. Plus, I'm so excited about beans, I simply must share.

Weekend Herb Blogging is the brainchild of my blogger buddy Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen and is being hosted this week by Ellie of Kitchen Wench, way down in Australia. To read about WHB and how to join in, please click here. Ellie should have her round-up posted on Monday. I can't wait to read all the entries!

Copyright © 2005-2007, Christine Cooks. All rights reserved


  1. I can't say enough about beans~i could eat them everyday1 You had a wonderful post today!

  2. I love beans. And I keep reading about how wonderful the Rancho Gordo beans are. They look just fantastic.

  3. Oh yes I love beans. That is a super simple recipe with just the very best bean cooking way there is - at least that's how I do them.
    Pretty beans!

  4. I, also, love beans. I just never think about cooking them. I've gotten in the habit of just reaching for the jar...
    The regional dish of this area is 'mogette' which are a specific type of white's almost sacred and serve at every gathering. Fortunately it comes in little jars at the markets ;-)

  5. Thank you Jann. I don't know that I could eat beans every day, but I do know that they will be more of a staple for me from now on.

    I can't say enough about Rancho Gordo beans. They truly are just as delicious as they look!

    Hi Tanna,
    Except for black bean soup/stew, the simpler the better for me too!

    Now I'm intrigued by the "mogette"! Please enlighten me further - ingredients? Use? I want to know it all! :)

  6. I was so excited about posting my very first entry in WHB and I just realize I am late for this week. Oh well, I'll save my post for the next edition. Good thing I visited your blog, Christine to see what you had cooked for it. Yummy recipe, and laurel is such an interesting ingredient.

  7. It looks really nice, I do have beans occasionally. I do think it depends how you cook they can be really tasty.

  8. Heavens, those look absolutely out of this world. I adore beans of all kinds, and yours are just perfect. Man, maybe I'd better try to order some of those...your photos make me want to eat some right away!

  9. You convinced me. I have to try this in autumn. Thanks for all the info. :)

  10. Ahhh the pic of the bay tree...sends me back to our summer home in Greece and bay all over the place!


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