Ok, I love beans. I really, really do. I love how versitle they are, I love that they have so much protein and fiber. I like how they can easily slip from one cuisine to another without batting an eye. The only thing I don’t love is the cook time. I hate to admit it, but I use canned beans. A lot. I can handle cooking my own lentils, but they are like the kiddie pool when it comes to beans. But I decided to branch out and try cooking my own beans. You know, from those ones that kinda look like sea stones and come in big bins at whole foods. What really convinced me is when I was reading an awesome blog, www.101cookbooks.com , and the author, Heidi, said switching from canned to dried beans is “like going from driving a Hyundai to a BMW.” Ok, I’m sold. Plus, I was hating the amount of salt in canned beans anyway.
So I picked up a pound of a nice 16 bean blend and decided soup was in order. The weatherman predicted rain and nothing goes with rain quite like soup. I carefully read the instructions on the side of the bag on how to cook beans and dutifully followed them. The afternoon before I wanted to cook them, I started soaking them in some water. I was already starting to cook for dinner that night and figured that the extra few soaking hours wouldn't hurt. I went about making a light dinner and enjoying my last day of sun before the rain started.
The next morning I woke up to some cloudy, cold skies, but no rain yet. I started some coffee and checked on my beans while I waited for it to brew. They looked about the same, except the skins had peeled off of some and were floating around the (now dirty gray) water like dead fish. I drained and rinsed the beans again and decided to let them soak for the rest of the morning.
By lunch, it was definitely raining. And I was ready to start making soup for dinner. The instructions on the side of the bean bag said that they would only need to simmer for an hour or two but I decided to start early. Most beans hold up pretty well even if you cook them for a long time and soup usually gets better the longer you cook it. So I added about a liter of water to the pot and turned the stove top on high to get things warmed up. I rinsed and chopped a leek and a few ribs of celery and used the food processor to dice up about 4 cloves of garlic for me. It all went into the pot along with a jar of organic home-grown canned tomatoes that Kevin and I snuck across the border on out last trip to Oregon. I swear you can almost feel the sunshine when you open a jar of tomatoes that tasty. I also added a good teaspoon of italian seasonings to the pot. Then I turned the pot down to a low simmer, put the lid on and went about my business for the next few hours. I'd check on it every once in a while to make sure nothing was sticking to the bottom of the pot. Around 4 pm after the soup had been cooking in this manner for almost 5 hours, I went to give it a taste to see how things were coming along.
Umm, crunchy? The beans had not cooked *at all*. Seriously, what gives? They've already been cooking for twice as long as the bag said they need to and I soaked them for at least 12 hours before that! So I turned the heat up a little, put the lid back on and thought to myself "Well, at least I started them early so they still have time to cook before dinner."
5 o'clock, 6 o'clock, 7 o'clock... slowly they are softening but still they are a little grainy in the middle of the bean. I make a heaping salad and a grilled cheese sandwich for dinner. My BF is still holding out for the soup.
At 8 we start eating it. It was *really* good and *most* of the beans were cooked. Some where still a little crunchy but my sweet boyfriend said that they were just "adding texture" to the soup. I actually can't wait to try this recipe again, I just need to start it a week ahead of time so that I can finish it properly.
There is an amazing grocery store, www.lunardis.com/index.html , in my area that I am going to check out for better beans. I have a hunch that maybe my beans were too old? Lunardis is kinda a mom and pop version of Whole foods, so I'm going to check for the beans there first. I just like the atmosphere better. It's more of a casual luxury rather than in-your-face. I just get the feeling like if whole foods were a person, I wouldn't like them because they are trying to hard. I just want to say, relax! You're too uptight! Where as Lunardis and I would fall into an easy friendship. : )