Friday, November 5, 2010

Guardian Service Basics: Beans

For regular readers of the Guardian Service Ware Blog, an apology for my sabbatical. I've been working a new job (yay!) which requires some driving (boo!) and I've had a little less time to both cook and write about it. I've also witnessed my eating habits change as a result. Late and large meals are ever the pitfall of my profession: you don't want to eat a lot before a show and after the curtain comes down (and a commute) you're both wired and tired and ravenous for a hot meal at 12:30 in the morning... and the fast food option rears its ugly head.

To combat the temptation, I've been trying to cook foods that will feed us over several days and improve as leftovers, like beans.

Beans. If the word conjures cans of syrupy mush or inedible pellets, we invite you to rediscover this nourishing, flavorful, economical and varied food, perfectly suited to Guardian Service Cookware.

Back in December, 2008 we had the good fortune to attend a talk at the LA Public Library hosted by the Culinary Historians of Southern California and featuring Ken Albala, Professor of History at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California and Steve Sando of Rancho Gordo Beans in Napa, CA. Both spoke about this humblest of staples in almost lyrical ways. We've incorporated more beans in our diet ever since.

In his recent book, "Beans: A History," Albala explores the "social, ethnic and nationalistic associations" of beans as well as the "philosophical and religious reasons why people have eschewed or embraced the lowly bean." His blog chronicles his latest food adventures—check it out.

Sando raises heirloom varieties of beans he has sought out in local communities throughout Mexico and Central America and their flavors and textures are as varied and nuanced as is their array of patterns and colors. He explained part of the mystery of rock hard beans, even those which have soaked overnight: your average supermarket navy beans may well have sat in a warehouse for a very long time before they reach your pot.

Cooking Beans with Guardian Service

The cooking time of dried legumes varies depending not only on their age, as mentioned above, but upon where they were grown and the kind of water in which they're cooked, which can make cooking them frustrating. Buying fresher beans from a consistent source can take away some of the guess work, but ultimately you'll need to patient and watchful. Fortunately, the consistent heat produced by the Guardian Service Cookware not only reduces the overall cooking time, but helps cook the beans uniformly.

1) In a large bowl*, soak overnight dried navy, lima, kidney or other dry beans in 3 times as much water as beans, removing any beans that float to the surface. Some cooks recommend changing the bean water at least once during the soaking—it removes some of the oligosaccharides which cause flatulence. I side with Irma Rombauer and Adelle Davis who both recommend cooking dry beans in the water in which they were soaked: vitamins and minerals are also passing into the soaking water and are lost with each water change.

*Don't soak beans in the Guardian Service Ware pan. While cooking with aluminum is safe, soaking for long periods can draw more metal into the food and possibly temporarily discolor your pan.

2) Transfer beans and water to Guardian Service Ware pan (the Casserole/Tureen unit works well or one of the dome cookers; if possible, select a unit with a glass lid, as it's easier to see that the beans remain on a steady simmmer). Slowly bring beans to a boil in the water in which they were soaked and maintain at a simmer over a low heat for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. Optional: Add a bay leaf or two.

3) When the beans become tender and are nearly done, add salt, pepper, fats or additional seasonings. (Don't add these before the beans are cooked or the ingredients will lose their potency and may lengthen the beans' cooking time). Remove a few with a spoon and blow on them. If the skins peel away, the beans are cooked.

We cooked some Rancho Gordo Vaquero Beans mixed with some navy beans, then tossed them with olive oil, fresh herbs, minced shallots and sea salt. There are endless variations, though beans always pair well with tomatoes, onions, meat, cheese... "Dried peas and beans, being rather on the dull side," Rombauer writes in The Joy of Cooking, "respond readily—like a good many dull people—to the right contacts."

Thanks again for checking back, loyal readers. To make up for our absence, for our next blog we're planning something special: the week before Thanksgiving, we'll dig out the large size Guardian Service Roaster and roast up our first Guardian Service turkey!

1 comment:

  1. Perfect! I have endless jars of beans just begging to be utilized.
    I am very excited for the turkey primer. Now to get my hands on a roaster ASAP!