by Emily Thorson
Beans! They are a good source of protein and can be mixed with pretty much anything (animal or vegetable) to create a near-complete meal. I used to buy canned beans, but have recently switched to dried beans because (here is the part where you think I’m going to say “they have a much more delicate flavor than canned beans” or “the consistency is far superior” but the answer is actually…) I have very small kitchen cabinets and round cans are an inefficient use of space.
So dried beans it is! This mostly works out fine–I can store them in adorable Ikea canisters and buy what I need in bulk at Whole Foods. But WHAT THE HELL IS UP WITH KIDNEY BEANS? They will not cook properly. We had lots of people over for a football game recently, including a number of IFAers. I figured I’d make my chili recipe. It’s easy (has only meat + beans) and delicious. The meat was great. Spices, great. The beans? Despite hours simmering away, they refused to properly soften (everyone said the chili was fine but I know that they were secretly judging me. I deserved it).
Last night I made a dish of dal with cabbage and walnuts, courtesy Mark Bittman. I used three types of beans: adzuki, black-eyed peas, and kidney beans. The first two were done in under two hours. Our kidney friends? Well, I let the dish simmer for six hours, then gave up because I didn’t want to go to sleep with the stove still on. The rest of the dish was turning to mush, but the kidney beans were still unacceptably firm. This morning I actually went through and picked most of them out in an attempt to salvage an otherwise perfectly tasty dish.
Oh, and here’s the other thing about kidney beans–they cook unevenly. At any given point, a third of them will be perfect, a third will be falling apart, and a third will be positively hard. What’s with that? Is it me? Is it because I’ve been raised on canned beans and can’t appreciate my legumes al dente? Am I missing some extra kidney bean step? This sucks.