I mentioned in the beans post that bean cooking follows a lot of the same steps, no matter the particular end result; in both of the cases of bean sides I made this week, it was all about the specific details of the method that produced wildly different, and very satisfying dishes.
Medierranean white beans
I had already gotten some lamb chops seasoned and cooking sous vide, so I set up a batch of beans to go with them. White beans are sort of my go-to for a side to lamb; I feel like they get a more tender texture that complements its structure, and the particular flavor they have matches its different profile from beef.
- 1/3 cup white beans
- 4 Tbsp olive oil, divided
- 1 sweet onion, diced
- 1-2 medium-sized carrots, diced
- 2-3 cloves garlic, smashed and minced (or pressed, if you have a press)
- 3/4 - 1 tsp salt, or to taste
- 1/2 tsp each, seeds ground:
- Fenugreek seed
- Nigella seed
- Thyme, dried (I also added some fresh sprigs, but it’s not neccesary.)
- Bay leaves (I usually use 2)
Soak the beans for 6 hours or more; just set them up with breakfast, and they’ll be ready to cook for dinner.
Sauté the onions and carrots in about 1 Tbsp olive oil, adding the salt to improve browning, then add the garlic and spices, and after blooming them for a moment, transfer all the vegetables into the soaking beans. After adding the bay leaves and remaining olive oil, cover and bring the whole pot to a boil. After boiling for at least 15 minutes, reduce the temperature and simmer until the beans are tender. The extra oil reduces the degree of frothing from the beans, and will add to the flavor of the beans and the broth.
Once the beans are tender or close-to-tender, uncover the pot but keep it simmering, to reduce the broth significantly. The beans should be cooked at this point, we just want the broth to be thickened at this point.
Cider vinegar pinto beans
I had already planned on a very southwestern flavor profile for these beans, but as I was finishing up, I felt like they were missing some sort of sweet flavor, and acid–and as I thought about what I thought was missing, I landed on apple cider. They got that tang I was looking for, and a fresh sweetness out of it.
- 1/2 cup pinto beans
- 4-5 Tbsp olive oil, divided
- 1 sweet onion, diced
- 1-2 medium carrots, diced
- 1 Sweet red bell pepper, diced
- 3-4 cloves garlic, smashed and minced
- 1 tsp salt
- Sherry or water for deglazing
- 1-1 1/2 tsp Apple cider vinegar
- Whole spices, ground:
- 1/4 tsp Fenugreek
- 1 tsp Cumin
- 1/2 tsp Coriander Seed
- Other spices:
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tsp dried Oregano
- 1 tsp dried Epazote
- 1/4-1/2 tsp Cayenne pepper powder (or to taste)
Start the beans soaking early, under at least an inch of water. When I was preparing this, I used fairly old beans, so my cooking of these beans included lots of extra water, which is not normally needed.
Once you’re ready to start cooking, sauté the onions, carrots, and pepper in a tablespoon or so of oil, and add salt for browning. Add the garlic and the spices, deglaze and transfer the lot to the soaking beans. Add the olive oil, and water as needed, then bring to a boil. After fifteen to twenty minutes, reduce heat to a high simmer, and cook until tender.
When you’re close to done, add the vinegar, and continue simmering uncovered so that the sharp note of the vinegar dissipates and the sweet flavor predominates; the pot liquor should be heavy and thick.
I like any of these sorts of dishes as a side to a meat dish; I’d also definitely enjoy them as a main in many cases–probably with some embellishment, or another side of some sort, and possibly a grain. Rice is a good one, I usually think. Expanding on the vinegar for sweetness, some sour pickles would probably go well; they can stand up to the richness of a bean broth.