Best Beans

I spend all winter long dreaming about that stretch of weather between Mother's Day and Father's Day. I look forward to being outside as much as possible during those days, which leaves me with less time in the kitchen. Despite the iffy weather we've been having, I have faith that soon enough, we'll be able to spend more time outside. In preparation, I've been experimenting with batches of black beans using dried beans instead of canned beans and just like everything else that 's prepped in advance, having a big ol' container of delicious black beans on the ready in my fridge makes life easier and frees up time for outside adventures! Making beans from scratch initially felt like a luxury to me; I never figured that I had the time for such an undertaking but I've come to realize that the low-maintenance set-up of beans (hours of soaking followed by hours of simmering) is much less stressful and time consuming than I initially thought. And the result? More time with my clan plus a giant container of phenomenal beans for several days which actually means less time sweating the dinner meal planning. Score. 

My first go-to for how-to was TheKitchn. I read this fantastic post about cooking dried beans and have pretty much committed it to memory. Making a delicious pot of black beans is literally no more than beans + water + salt + time.  I have experimented with this formula by adding fresh garlic or fresh shallots or a bay leaf. My kids had the most compliments for the batch using fresh garlic (recipe below). Seriously, I am bowled over by how easy this has been. Armed with my pot of beans, I have a world of possibility at my fingertips. 

Though some people consider a pot of black beans to be just a cold weather comfort food, we eat them year round. The list is endless: Roasted black beansDIY black bean wraps, black bean tacos, black bean soup, feijoada, black bean dip, black beans and rice, black bean burgers, black beans without anything else in a bowl with a spoon. I am a big fan of canned beans, don't get me wrong. But I feel like a rockstar these days for making my own. 

Here's the recipe for amazing black beans, slightly adapted from TheKitchn: 

Ingredients 

1 pound dried black beans
Water
1 tablespoon salt, plus more to taste
2 small garlic cloves, cut into large chunks

Instructions

1. Cover the beans in water and soak them for at least two hours, preferably longer. I've had amazing results when I soak them overnight but have also produced delicious batches with just a couple of hours of soaking. 

2. Drain the soaked beans. There may not be much water left, as the beans have absorbed  them and grown. Rinse the beans with cool water. 

3. Place the beans in a sturdy pot or Dutch oven. Add the garlic. Cover with an inch of salted water.

4. Bring the beans to a boil. Give the beans a gentle stir and reduce heat to a simmer and cook with the lid on for at least an hour, potentially up to three hours. Stir occasionally and taste for doneness. If the beans are quite al dente and the water is mostly evaporated, add a bit more water. 

5. When beans are nearly done, add the salt, stir and taste. Adjust salt as needed. Continue to simmer until beans are tender. 

 Best Black Beans with rice packed for lunch with Spring Citrus Salad, baby carrots, dried apricots and sunflower seed cookies.

Best Black Beans with rice packed for lunch with Spring Citrus Salad, baby carrots, dried apricots and sunflower seed cookies.

We feasted on black beans for days! It was a perfect companion to the April Citrus Salad. Let us know your favorite uses for black beans!