Posted Friday, January 8, 2010 at 12:40 PM
No--not really stupid at all!
Beans in cans are the easiest thing ever. Just drain and rinse them (to remove extra salt and reduce gas-causing). If you are adding them to a stew or recipe, that's it. If you are having them alone, say in tacos or as a side dish, just add a little water or vegetable broth, and season them however you like and warm them through. I like lots of black pepper, or a little chile powder and lime, etc. Usually they are already plenty salty.
Vegetarian "refried" beans are the same--except there's no rinsing or draining. I usually heat these gently in a pan with a little water or broth to thin, then add seasonings to taste.
Dried beans are also easy to do if you plan a little bit ahead. And they freeze well, so I make big batches to thaw or keep fresh at the beginning of each week. It's a Sunday tradition.
This formula works for any bean from kidneys and pintos to chickpeas (the smaller beans like black-eyed peas and lentils take much less time, and may not need to be soaked, though it doesn't hurt to soak them):
Sort and pick-through beans by spreading them on a cookie sheet or large platter, etc. Very occasionally you'll find a small rock or bad bean to discard.
Rinse the beans.
In a large pot or bowl place beans and water to cover by several inches. Choose a pot or bowl with enough room for beans to expand. They swell up alot as they soak.
Soak for several hours or overnight. The longer you soak, the quicker they are to cook. I wouldn't soak more than a day though.
Important: DISCARD soaking water and rinse soaked beans thoroughly. This reduces gas, by rinsing away the oligosaccharides (natural sugars) found in beans. Rinse pot too, if you used that for soaking.
Put beans with fresh cold water enough to cover by two inches on the stove, cover and bring to a boil. DO NOT ADD SALT, as it toughens the beans. But you can put in chopped onion, garlic, carrots, celery, any herbs you like, etc.
Once the beans come to a boil, reduce heat so they are simmering. Replace cover and cook for 1-2 hours (depends on the bean, just check them after an hour and see where you are), stirring occasionally. When they are tender, salt to taste (and soy sauce works great for that).
I like mine a little soupy, but you can use less water, drain after cooking, or whatever.
The process is basically the same for a slow-cooker. Just put them in with water and whatever aromatic veggies you like, and let 'em cook several hours until tender.
You *can* overcook beans, but it actually doesn't seem to matter much.