go-to meals: straight-forward, no-fail and practically no-think dinners for *those* nights. and if it’s one of those nights, dinner had better be good.
If you make pots of beans, you’re like “Pffft! Um, yeah, I know already. If you have a pot of beans, you have a delicious, completely customizable dinner and who doesn’t already do this, how did you even get a food blog…” to which I say “Woah! Why so angry! Here, have some wine… Ghad..” But I get it, I know, I should have been making a big pot of beans once weekly for my whole working life instead of more complicated meals and wondering why I’m always eating dinner at 10pm.
However, you will have to start these beans as soon as you get home because they’ll take two hours (plus) to cook (almost entirely unattended) if you’ve soaked your beans since morning.* Still, that gives you enough time to wash your hair/work on your side project/watch TV/give someone in your life the attention they deserve. A pot of beans is delicious on its own, especially if you have fantastic beans like a heritage variety–you would be shocked at how delicious good dried beans are vs. your everyday dried beans or canned beans. And while stand-alone good beans are great, paired with accompaniments they are worthy of being served to guests. My sides were Mexican-inspired; here’s everything you need to make the same spread:
White corn tortillas which you can have on hand in the freezer–easy to pull apart and they don’t need to be thawed
Fresh cherry tomatoes
A couple of ears of corn
Sour cream or yogurt (which you can strain for a thicker consistency)
Oaxaca cheese or mozzarella
What i assume you have:
Spices (I used Mexican chili powder and ground cumin)
And those all-important dried beans such as pinto, Romano or whatever you have in your pantry
First, make the beans: pick them over tossing any wrinkly or odd-looking ones and the very rare stone or imposter. Wash them and then soak them for about 6 hours in a lot of water. Use the same water to cook them (recipe below).*
Meanwhile, make a fresh salsa by chopping your cherry tomatoes, a deseeded and deveined jalapeno (optional, of course), a shallot, some cilantro and mixing them together with lime juice and salt.
When the beans are almost ready, warm your fresh or frozen corn tortillas in a dry skillet in batches and transfer them to a clean, damp kitchen towel-line plate and cover them to keep them warm and to stop them from drying out. Sear your corn and more whole jalapenos in a well-oiled grill pan.
Set out your sour cream or yogurt. Slice your avocado and immediately bathe it in the juice of 1 lime or and sprinkle with chili flakes and cilantro if you want to.
And then, eat! Well, first open ice cold beers (add those to your grocery list!). And then eat.
*Watch this video for why you should cook your beans in their soaking water, why you shouldn’t soak them overnight and other great bean-making tips.
I soaked my beans for 6 hours and they were cooked in less time than indicated here. If you pre-soak your beans, check them for done-ness after an hour and half in 15-20 minute intervals.
2 tbsp. canola oil
½ small white onion, thinly sliced
1 tsp Mexican chili powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 lb. dried pinto beans (or Romano beans or whatever you have on hand)
Kosher salt, to taste
To serve, any or all of these suggestions (see the post for details on how to bring this dinner together): fresh tomato salsa, sour cream or strained yogurt, cilantro, 1 cup shredded Oaxaca or mozzarella cheese, blistered serrano chilies or jalapenos, seared corn, avocados in lime juice with chili flakes, warm tortillas…and cold beer.
Heat oil in a large pot (4 qt.) over medium-high heat and add onion and spices. Cook, stirring, until the onions soften and the spices toast (a couple of minutes). Then add beans and 10 cups warm water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, and cook, covered and stirring occasionally, until beans are just tender and begin to split open, about 2 hours. Add salt, mix well and taste, adding more if needed, and continue cooking, mashing some of the beans in the pot as they cook, until beans are completely soft, about 30 minutes more.