Beans are a great staple to have in your pantry, they are inexpensive, filling, full of nutrients, and so flexible and tasty. No one would fault you for opening a can of beans. However, with just some waiting around of time, you can have a dish for pennies that has a bit more natural flavor, better texture and less salt. Additionally, there are more organic options than ever for dried beans, while organic canned beans are a little more difficult to find and always a more expensive option. Lastly, beans provide a wonderful base to hearty dishes, soups and salads and act as an excellent replacement for meat in dishes that no one will complain about.
As far as nutrients, beans are high in protein, fiber, folate B vitamins, potassium, and even have a little iron.
There are a few different methods for soaking and preparing dried beans. Traditionally, an overnight soak guarantees enough soaking time for predictably good beans. However there are two quick methods that work quite well when short on time. Which works best? Unless making hummus, for which the overnight method is always advised to a super soft final cooked bean, any method works well. Overnight is great because it takes no effort at all, just time. The others work well for a bean dish to be ready in an hour or so.
Each method below makes 2 cups of beans.
1 cup dried beans
1 teaspoon baking soda
4 cups water
Combine all in a bowl and soak beans for at least 6 hours up to 12.
When ready to use beans, drain and discard soaking liquid and rinse beans.
Quick Method I
While an overnight soak imparts more flavor, this works in a pinch:
Soak 1 cup beans and 1 teaspoon baking soda (to help soften) in water for 10 minutes.
Bring to a boil for 20 minutes. Take off the heat and let beans sit them sit until ready to cook.
When ready to cook beans, drain beans and rinse.
Quick Method II*
Soak 1 cup beans and 1 teaspoon baking soda (to help soften) in water bring to a boil for 1 minute.
Turn off heat and let sit for 1 hour, covered. When ready to cook beans, drain beans and rinse.
*People have their favorite methods, often passed down through families. We’ve found the overnight method is foolproof, quick method I works really well in a short time, and both of these methods will show right away if there is any issue with the beans for some reason not softening enough. Quick method II has given us some spotty results that can no doubt be addressed, the only problem is you cannot tell if there is a problem n Method II, until actually cooking the beans.
When ready to cook beans
Add soaked beans (from either method), 4 cups water, and 1 teaspoon salt to a heavy saucepan and simmer, uncovered for 30 minutes over medium heat. Skim top of foam if needed, but it won’t hurt anything.
When cooking the beans, you may want to add additional flavorings depending on your dish such as herbs, red pepper flakes, bay leaf, or onion, garlic, or other aromatics.