White Beans: Cook Once, Eat Twice
I love a warm, hearty cassoulet on chilly winter nights. Cassoulet is a traditional French stew made with a variety of beans and meats, such as duck or sausage. True, it can be time-consuming to prepare, so I save it for a Sunday. And in the interest of saving time, I plan a second dish to make with the beans as well.
There are so many options when it comes to beans—throw them in salads and soups (such as this Savory Ham and Bean Soup) or use them as a flavorful bed on which to serve your protein of choice. Or, as I’m going to do with these beans, make a white-bean dip to have on hand as an appetizer for the week.
Beans are underrated. They’re filled with protein and other essential nutrients, they’re very affordable, and, most important, they taste great. They’re especially delicious when you start with the dried beans, soak them in water, and take the time to actually cook them yourself. White beans double and sometimes triple in size, and the result is a pillowy, buttery texture. Canned beans are great in a pinch, but once you cook them yourself, you may not go back to canned. I recently made this bean-rich vegetarian cassoulet, which was made flavor-rich by adding the soaking liquid from the dried mushrooms as well. You truly don’t need to sacrifice flavor by giving up the meat in this classic dish.
Many varieties of white beans are interchangeable, I used white “runner” cannellini beans from Rancho Gordo, a California-based producer that grows some of the country’s finest beans. You can use any white bean you find at your local supermarket too. With the extras, I’m making a white bean dip which I will have on hand as an appetizer for tomorrow’s dinner. I like the classic pairing of rosemary with white beans in this white-bean-spread recipe.
My shortcut for cooking beans in a flash is a pressure cooker, which cuts the cooking time down considerably. If you don’t own a pressure cooker and don’t plan on getting one, cooking beans in a plain old pot is an easy and low-maintenance cooking task. Simply cook them on a simmer for about an hour, or until soft. When making the beans for the cassoulet, make 4 cups extra and reserve after cooking for the dip.
Not only do they taste delicious, beans are also a great food to introduce to your kids at a young age. My one year old can pick each one up individually, making it a great way to help develop fine-motor coordination.
Try these recipes for bean dips, bean soups, and cassoulet! And check out “Three Things to Do with Cannellini Beans,” which uses canned beans.