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how to cook dried beans
by Yee-Fan Sun | 1
continued from page 1
you'll most likely encounter…
Dried beans come in an astounding variety of shapes, sizes and colors.
Here are a few of the ones you're most likely to see at your friendly
neighborhood grocery store:
Pinto beans | A
medium-sized bean with a pinky-beige exterior that's mottled with brown.
Pinto beans have a good smooth texture and nice flavor, and work well
either whole or mashed. This is the standard bean for burritos, chili,
and refried beans (although black beans can make a fine alternative).
Kidney beans (a.k.a red beans) | These very pretty
beans have a deep burgundy-red color and an elongated kidney (duh)
shape. They're a bit bigger than pintos, but are often used as an
alternative (in the northeastern US where I grew up, they even seem to
be the chili bean of choice … shudder. Personally, I far prefer the
traditional pinto for Mexican and Tex-Mex recipes). To my tastebuds,
they always seem just the slightest bit mealy in texture, but their
flavor is good. They're the quintessential Southern bean, and a must for
the yummy red-beans-and-rice dish that's popular in Louisiana
Black beans (a.k.a. turtle beans) | These beans have a
slightly shiny, inky-black exterior; despite their smallish size, they
always seem to take forever to cook through. But the wait is worth it.
The texture is lovely and dense, the flavor earthy with a hint of
sweetness. Black beans are probably my favorite beans, and an absolute
staple in my pantry.
Navy beans (a.k.a white beans, pea beans) | These small white
beans are the basis for Boston baked beans, and can also be used in
soups and salads.
Cannellini beans| This large white bean is essentially a white
version of the kidney. It's often used in Italian cooking and pairs
really well with rosemary.
Lentils | Lentils are very small, flat, and round, and come in a
range of colors. The greenish-brown and red varieties are probably the
most common; while each is very tasty, they cook up quite differently.
The green/brown ones hold their shape well even after a long cooking
time, while the red ones tend to break down and yield an appealingly
creamy texture. Both are excellent to have around in the cupboard, as
they're the rare dried bean that actually takes less than 45 minutes to
cook. Lentils work great in soup, or cooked up with Indian spices and
served with rice.
store: storage tips
Once you've bought your dried beans and brought them back home, store
your beans in a tightly sealed container at room temperature. Leftover
spaghetti jars work dandy, and as an added bonus, the beans will look
mighty pretty sitting in their clear glass jars on your kitchen counter
(of course, should you wish to conserve precious counter space, the jars
can also be popped into a cabinet). Do be aware that while dried beans
will keep a good long time, they take longer and longer to cook the
older they get. A year is probably the longest you should let those
dried beans sit before you use them. Also, avoid mixing old and new
beans, as your beans will cook unevenly.
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