5 Secrets to a Better Batch of Beans
We learned tricks of the trade from the new Cool Beans cookbook by Joe Yonan.
Beans are often the unsung heroes of recipes. They're filler, bulk, fiber. They're rarely the star, which is why it's so exciting to see an entirely bean-based cookbook hitting shelves. Cool Beans: The Ultimate Guide to Cooking with the World's Most Versatile Plant-Based Protein by Joe Yonan, food editor of The Washington Post, contains a wealth of knowledge about the beloved bean and a collection of 125 diverse recipes.
Arriving on shelves February 4, 2020, Cool Beans covers the basics of cooking legumes, but it also dives into details that will delight readers. With sections like "A Bean Glossary," which explains a wide range of common and heirloom varieties, to the vegetarian recipes that span from Tunisia to Tuscany, you'll put down this cookbook feeling inspired to cook more beans and honor them the way they should be.
Buy It: Cool Beans: The Ultimate Guide to Cooking with the World's Most Versatile Plant-Based Protein, $20, amazon.com
To give you just a taste (pun intended) of how fact-packed Cool Beans is, we've taken a few of Yonan's best tips for making a better batch of beans. If you want to learn more about the wonderful world of beans, be sure to preorder a copy of the cookbook for the full experience.
1. Branch Out
While most of us are familiar with basics like black, pinto, and navy beans, there's an entire world of bean varieties that you probably haven't explored yet. Heirloom beans are making their way into the mainstream, a trend that Yonan attributes in part to committed companies like Rancho Gordo, Timeless Natural Foods, and Zürsun Idaho Heirloom Beans. When purchasing heirloom varieties from reputable business, not only will you get to enjoy the tastes of beans types like Christmas lima, black turtle, and flageolet, you'll also be consuming a much fresher product than that bag of lentils that has been collecting dust in the grocery store for years.
2. Add Acids Last
Acidic foods like tomatoes, vinegar, or citrus fruits can make beans harden up by coating their exterior and preventing water from entering. "If it's no more than a few tablespoons as part of the seasoning, I go ahead and put it in at the beginning if desired," says Yonan. For recipes with larger amounts of acidic foods, wait until the beans are tender to stir these ingredients in.
3. Make it a Habit
Cooking beans takes time, which is why Yonan suggests starting the habit of cooking a weekly pot of beans. By whipping up a batch of beans on the stovetop or in the Instant Pot every weekend, you'll have a delicious range of bean-based recipes available for quick weeknight meals. And what to do with that leftover bean juice? "Freeze it for later," says Yonan. "It makes a fantastic base for soup or a delicious broth all on its own."
4. Soak in Seaweed (or Brine)
Yonan goes in depth about soaking beans within Cool Beans, covering the pros and cons, plus different methods. One of the techniques to make extra creamy beans is to soak them in either a salty brine or with kombu (a type of seaweed). Both have high-sodium content, which breaks down the beans' skins so they'll become very tender while cooking. Just be sure to rinse your beans after soaking though, so you don't end up with an over-salted final dish.
5. Look to Other Cultures
Beans are eaten around the world, so looking to different countries for their go-to dishes will keep you from monotonously eating the same black bean burger or minestrone soup recipe over and over again. Yonan mentions that one of the best ways to learn from international cuisines is by shopping at global markets. He says, "Here's a reason to buy in person rather than through the interwebs: you can more easily ask the proprietors of these markets — trust me, they're cooks, every one — for their own favorite ways to cook beans and other dishes from their culture."