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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Basic Beans Recipe

Beans are a bit of a quandary. They are an excellent source of fiber and protein, both of which are a powerful way to keep hunger at bay. But they can be sort of a pain to cook. I first learned to cook beans while living in rural Costa Rica. I lived in Manuel Antonio, and in that area "Gallo Pinto" is the national dish (rice and beans). Twice a week I made a huge batch of red beans. Although I appreciate the convenience of canned beans, the quality and taste of homemade beans is vastly superior. Once you master homemade beans, they are an excellent accompaniment to roasted meats, and make wonderful dips when blended. To cook beans at home well takes patience and time. Thankfully, preparation time is next to nothing, and with a slowcooker, the cooking can all be handled for you.

On first blush, beans may not seem exactly "gourmet" but you will find them a part of the culinary inheritance of cultures around the world, including French and Italian fare. Once you have mastered this simple and flavorful recipe for making beans at home, you can use it to prepare white beans for roasted lamb, black beans for dip, kidney beans for chili, or pinto beans for Mexican food. The possibilities are endless.

Ingredients:

16 oz dried beans
2 sprigs of fresh Mexican oregano
1/2 green plantain, peeled
2-3 peeled whole garlic cloves

Instructions:

Add all ingredients to the slow-cooker. Add enough water to cover beans by approximately 1.5”. If you are looking for more interesting flavor, you may substitute in beer for half of the water. Cook on low for 4 to 6 hours.

This recipe is particularly good for red or black beans, although may be used for almost any type. If you want a spicier option, you may also add one whole jalapeno or other pepper to the slow-cooker.

The plantain is likely to be something you don’t have on hand. If you don’t have one when you need it, or if you can’t find them in your area, you may omit them. Do not substitute a regular banana, as they will not hold up under the prolonged cooking.

This recipe is going over to The Houndsooth Gourmet for Weekend Herb Blogging.

3 comments:

Ramona said...

Thanks for your bean insight and this simple and delicious method for preparing them!
Ramona
The Houndstooth Gourmet

Kalyn said...

I see you're back in the U.S. I hope you had a wonderful adventure in Ghana! I'm quite intrigued by the addition of a plantain here. I do love Mexican oregano, and I also like to add epazote to beans when I cook them like this.

Erin said...

Ramona, thanks for doing the roundup. I like publishing base recipes from time to time, because so many people I know are so accustomed to cans that they have forgotten how to do it homestyle.

Kalyn, how interesting. truthfully I had never heard of epazote until you mentioned it. Using a plantain is something I do mostly because it was what every woman in my village did; i'm not entirely sure about the folk science behind it. Rumor had it that the plantain helped make the beans tender and tasty, but also able to retain their shape when they were 'twice cooked' into Gallo Pinto. I havent been able to find the science online that would explain the reason behind this, although some sites suggest that calcium can enable beans to hold their shape through longer cooking times.

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