Beans From Scratch: The Slow Cooker Method

I’m serious about beans. For many years, I didn’t understand what the big deal was. I used canned beans in my chili and thought they were fine, but nothing to get excited about. Like tofu*, they seemed to be a vehicle for other flavors, not something to enjoy on their own.

Then I started cooking them properly from scratch and everything changed. I became a bean girl. What does a bean girl do, besides eat lots of beans? Try to figure out the best way to cook beans and store beans. Bookmark a lot of bean recipes. Spend an inordinate amount of time in the bulk foods aisle at Whole Foods.

I’ve soaked, I’ve simmered, I’ve slow-cooked. And I have two favorite methods for cooking beans from scratch; this is the first. If you don’t have a slow cooker, you’ll have to wait for part two.

In the meantime, this burning question: To soak or not to soak? I always soak chickpeas — they’re so hard, you have to — and only soak other beans if I happen to think of it either hours or a day before. But let’s speak briefly about the unspeakable: the digestive effects of beans, henceforth referred to as “the toots.” When I am eating beans at least once a week, I am not afflicted by the dreaded toots. Regular intake of fiber seems to keep things running smoothly and, uh, silently. If you aren’t so lucky, there are some who say soaking your beans and discarding the soaking water before cooking will help. With the toots.

I hope that answers your question because I’m not going to go into more detail.

So what to do with all your lovely, non-gassy, perfectly tender beans? Once cooked, they can be used immediately, or stored, covered in their cooking liquid, in the refrigerator for up to a week or in the freezer for several months. Then they are as convenient as canned beans, but with a better texture and a kajillion times tastier.

Many recipes for dishes with from-scratch beans to come. I am a bean girl, after all.

* Some other time, I will discuss eating tofu to eat tofu, rather than eating tofu to pretend it is meat. It’s all very Zen.
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Friday Links: February 10, 2012

Cuppow + canning jar = my new travel mug. (Find me on Instagram: anjaliruth.)


What I’ve been reading:

Get Your Goat On – Wall Street Journal

How I Bought 3,500 Cookbooks and Got 6,317 – Huffington Post

With Coffee, the Price of Individualism Can Be High – New York Times

Who Doesn’t Like Brussels Sprouts – Mario Batali Voice


What I’ve been cooking:

Pan-Roasted Sea Bass with Citrus and Avocado Oil – Bon Appetit

Thai Stir-Fried Greens with Oyster Sauce – my recipe on The Kitchn

Lemony Green Beans With Almond Breadcrumbs – The Kitchn

…and thinking about cooking:

Harissa Chickpeas with Spinach – Not Without Salt

Smoked Trout and Cabbage Salad

I’m really into cabbage. For a long time, cabbage conjured images in my mind of long winters in Eastern Europe, root cellars and hardscrabble farmers wearing woolen underclothes. Smoked trout had a similar connotation, so perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise they fit together so perfectly.

I changed my mind about cabbage when I started making Orangette’s simple red cabbage and Parmesan salad, which is so crisp and sweet and peppery and a little funky from the cheese. Who knew cabbage was so sweet? It must really take the mind off the itchy underthings.

My smoked trout revelation came at the hands of my friend Jessica, purveyor of all things good, who recommended Trader Joe’s canned smoked trout. This came at a time when I was looking to replace Rob’s mercury-heavy tuna melt habit with something slightly healthier. He has thus far rejected sardines, the superheroes of the sea, but loves smoked trout, so it has gone into our weekly meal rotation. I usually mix it with mayonnaise, lemon juice, pepper and fresh herbs and spread it on good toasted bread. He calls it “trout crostini,” which makes us both feel fancy.

But one day, making an Orangette-esque salad with a head of green cabbage, I decided to throw in a little smoked trout in place of the cheese, and ended up with this beguiling mix. It’s a little smoky, a little sweet, savory yet totally crunchy and refreshing. The leftovers were just as good the next day for lunch and I was sold. Those Eastern European farmers in my mind really have it going on.

Smoked Trout & Cabbage Salad

Yield: 4-6 servings

{ Ingredients }

1 small (or 1/2 large) cabbage
1 can oil-packed smoked trout
1-2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

{ Directions }

Cut the cabbage into quarters and cut out the core. Using a mandoline or sharp knife, thinly slice the cabbage and place in a large bowl.

Remove the trout from the oil and add to the cabbage. Using a fork, mash the trout into flakes and mix into the cabbage. Add the olive oil, and lemon juice to taste. Season with salt and pepper.

Keeps well, though it will be its crunchiest the day it is assembled.

Friday Links: February 3, 2012

Milhouse washes spinach.


What I’ve been reading:

Finally, Good News About School Lunches – New York Times

Deception Diet: How Optical Illusions Can Trick Your Appetite – NPR

What Heals The World? Soup, Made By Moms – NPR

The Dark Side of Backyard Chickens – CHOW

How to Make Mineral Water…Really – Gilt Taste


What I’ve been cooking:

Miso Sesame Winter Squash – 101 Cookbooks

Melissa Clark’s Double Coconut Granola – WNYC

Roasted Broccoli and Cheddar Soup – my recipe on The Kitchn

…and thinking about cooking:

Mediterranean Fish Chowder With Potatoes and Black Kale – New York Times

Cambro As Compost Bucket: A Love Story

For the last few years, I’ve felt like a lazy jerk for not composting. Or, to be more specific, for not separating my compostable trash and putting it in the green bin for the city of Los Angeles to compost. All I had to do was collect the scraps in a separate container, dump them in the green bin behind our apartment, and wheel the green bin to the curb every Tuesday night, and the city would cart it away to be turned into free compost for residents. But I never did it — until a week ago.

Somehow in that week, I’ve become fixated on how much I am now collecting in the compost bucket and it is a weird, happy source of pride. In case you hadn’t noticed by my snapping dreamy photos of my kitchen trash and sharing them publicly.


I realize now I was making the whole thing too complicated. I thought I had to get an attractive little compost bucket to keep on the counter and collect the scraps. But not-ugly compost buckets can be surprisingly pricey and are just not a fun thing to buy when you have an extra $30-$50 burning a hole in your apron pocket. I think I was also in denial about the fact that I didn’t want a bucket permanently parked on my counter. I like a clear counter.

So I had a moment of revelation while reading Faith’s roundup of compost buckets. She showed a covered Cambro — a sort of large, restaurant-grade Tupperware container — and suggested keeping it under a sink to collect scraps. I already own a few Cambros, so this solution was free and doesn’t take up any counter space. Genius.

The Cambro I’m using holds 3.5 liters, which is 2-4 days worth of scraps, depending on how much I cook. Even in this unseasonable January heat, it doesn’t stink and cleaning it out is as simple as giving it a scrub in the sink, or running it through the dishwasher if it ever gets really bad.

Best of all, I’m keeping 7-10 liters of trash from being thrown into a landfill every week. That’s 520 liters a year! I can’t remember now why I didn’t start doing this sooner. Oh yeah, because I was a lazy jerk.

Now come sit next to me and look at these photos of my orange peels….