I made beans. Tamar Adler, chef and author of An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace inspired me. Legendary food writers, M.F.K. Fisher, Clementine Paddleford and Elizabeth David inspired her. This is well-trusted advice on how to make beans plump and tender and make you want another bite.
Begin when you are not feeling hungry. Begin when you remember that you’ve been wanting to give these beans a go. Begin where you are.
Gather two cups of dry cannellini beans (beans should be of your choice, the process is the same except for lentils). Put them in the pot and fill with water–about an index finger over their heads. Cover the pot and leave them soak overnight.
The next day, drain the beans, return them to the same pot and add the following:
- vegetable scraps (carrot peels, celery tops, onion peels, fennel fronds and stems) or cut up a stalk or two of celery, rough chop a carrot (no need to peel), chop an onion in half or quarters–the idea being you add what you have on hand.
- fresh parsley, a bay leaf, garlic cloves (however many you like, these are your beans), salt and pepper.
Pour in enough cool water to cover. According to Adler the beans should appear to be bathing, not drowning. Add a long drizzle of your best olive oil.
Bring to a rapid boil then immediately lower to simmer and cover. It has taken me no less than three hours to get these beans cooked to perfection, possibly more. I make these in the morning when I’m going to be home all day and I’m able to eat them that night in time for dinner. The aroma that fills your kitchen will be one of nurturance and peace of mind–a savory meal is on its way. Remember to taste the broth as it cooks and adjust the seasonings to your pleasure.
Adler defers to Clementine Paddleford’s (from The Best in American Cooking) instruction of how long beans should simmer. I don’t believe I will ever need it put another way.
“…until beans have gorged themselves with fat and water and swelled like the fat boy in his prime.”
Taste five beans. If they are all soft to their very middles, they’re done. If even one of them doesn’t meet this requirement, keep on simmering.
One last bit of bean advice that Adler pulls from The Best in American Cooking is downright sexy
“a cooked bean is so tender that the mere flutter of your breath should disturb its skin right off.”…..
All you need alongside a bowl of your beans is a slice or two of toasted, crusty bread, rubbed with a clove of garlic, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with grated parmeggiano reggiano cheese.
Later in the week, build upon that humble pot of beans by adding slices of broiled sausage, pasta, sauteed spinach, more parmeggiano and olive oil.