The Bean Challenge!

The Bean Challenge!

corona beans garlic scapes
Corona beans (Rancho Gordo Beans) with roasted garlic scapes, pine nuts and parsley, scallions & lemony vinaigrette.


It’s hot in Portland, Oregon, very hot, this week. Every summer (earlier this year than usual!) I have moments where I’d rather not be in the kitchen from 5-7 pm. Much of the year I’m happy to be but not when it’s really hot. What does this have to do with beans?

domingo rojo beans farro salad
Domingo Rojo beans (Rancho Gordo) with farro and cilantro and lemony vinaigrette.

I typically put a big bowl of dry beans out to soak in the evening (I do this year-round) and then in the morning before I get breakfast and school lunch ready I drain the beans, cover with fresh water, add a few aromatics and turn them on to cook. By the time we head out the door for school the beans are done (more details below). And that means I have the base of many a meal cooked before it begins to get truly warm in my kitchen. *And no need to soak if you have another method you like. Just cook beans!

white bean parsley harissa quesadilla
Zolfino beans (Ayers Creek Farm) with harissa, parsley and sharp cheddar.

Those beans then turn into quesadillas or tacos of all kinds; salads, beans and rice (the rice often having been cooked at some earlier time to and just needing to be reheated), quick chili, soups and dips. Yes, there’s some cooking involved to make them meal worthy but it’s pretty simple and when you have home-cooked beans and their attendant flavorful broth much of the work is done. There are many more bean recipe on the Seasonal Recipe Collection!

beans rice spicy green sauce
Purgatorio Beans (Ayers Creek Farm) with spicy green sauce and rice.

So, the challenge is to cook a pot of beans, a new kind maybe, just for fun and tell us about in a comment here. Let’s savor the simplicity, flavor and flexibility of beans in the summer!

black beans rice Ellis
Black turtle beans (Sun Gold Farm) with brown rice and cilantro and my lovely son who loves rice and beans.
beans soup herbs harissa radish
Pinto beans (Sun Gold Farm), Mayacoba beans (Rancho Gordo), bean broth, herbs, radishes, harissa.


The two most important things you can do to get hooked on cooking your own dry beans are:


1)  Cook a lot of beans at once since they freeze so well, once cooked and covered in their cooking liquid. That way you have them on hand for quick meals when you’re short on time–just try to remember to put them out to thaw on the counter in the morning or the night before.


2) Let the beans cool in their cooking liquid for at least 1-2 hours. This vastly improves their flavor and texture. You do not need to refrigerate them while they’re cooling. Just leave them in the pot on the stove (with burner off) until they’re cool. Then refrigerate what you think you’ll use up in 5 days and freeze the rest. Keep as much of the cooking liquid as you can–it’s wonderful in soups, as a broth on its own, to loosen up beans when making a spread or refried beans, etc. and it also protects them in the freezer.


Place dry beans in a bowl covered by about 4 inches of cold water. Soak over night or 6-8 hours. Drain beans.


Place soaked beans in a large pot and cover with cold water by several inches. Add a couple of whole, peeled garlic cloves, a bay leaf and a chunk of peeled onion. Bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer and let cook covered until the beans are tender, stirring occasionally (this helps prevent some beans from softening before others.) I add salt towards the end of the cooking time and when you do add salt, be generous, as in at least 1 teaspoon sea salt for every 1 1/2 cups or so of dried beans. They will likely need more still. The time it takes for the beans to cook will vary depending on the kind/size of bean and the freshness of the dried beans. Pinto and borlotti types typically take about 30-35 minutes, smaller white and black beans as little as 20-25. Let beans cool in their liquid (see above) and then use, freeze, etc. If you’re freezing some, fill your container with the beans and then ladle in the cooking liquid until the beans are covered. Cooked beans also keep in the fridge for 5-6 days and for several months in the freezer.

11 thoughts on “The Bean Challenge!”

  • You’ve converted me to a bean cooker! I love orca beans (bought in bulk at New Seasons) with wild rice, mixed greens, olive oil, salt and pepper!

  • Sarah Deumling says:

    Excellent, as usual. I think I’ll put out a pot of beans to soak right now.

    Just (finally) planted my “Jimmy” beans for this year.

  • Recently I realized that if I start soaking beans when I shape my naturally leavened bread loaves for proofing, that I can cook them in the oven with the residual heat from baking the bread when it come out. I just turn the heat down to 225 after the loaves come out (at 425) and slide in a covered oven proof pot with the soaked beans, water, salt and aromatics. In about an hour they’re done. I frequently bake bread first thing in the morning so the beans are out in plenty of time for lunch.

    • cookwithwhatyouhave says:

      Clever and no doubt delicious. I’ll have to try this. Haven’t gotten onto a regular bread schedule yet.

  • You’ve spoiled me, Katherine. I had a ‘planning lapse’ the other day and had to buy a can of black beans. Needless to say, they were terrible! That very evening, I set a pot of beans on the stove and have been able to rebuild me store of frozen beans. Whew! Much better than canned!

  • I love beans, cook most of my own, but don’t hate canned beans, especially garbanzos which I can eat straight from the pot or can. But – her is a question. I love those giant marinated beans that one sees on the olive bars in the grocery store but at the price I rarely buy them. Does anyone know what kind of beans those are and where they are available and have a recipe or suggestions for a similar marinade. Thanks.

    • cookwithwhatyouhave says:

      Thanks for your comment Candace. Those are Corona beans or also called Gigante beans. They are the ones you see in the first photo of the blog post with garlic scapes, pine nuts, etc. They are in the bulk sections at New Seasons and Whole Foods in Portland and probably in other stores. I got mine from Rancho Gordo Beans. Soak them good and long, like 24 hours and then cook gently. Then you can marinate them in a red wine vinegar, garlic, olive oil dressing to achieve a similar result and add whatever else you’d like. Let me know how it works out!

  • Tricia Snell says:

    Love this article Katherine! You have inspired me (me with the drawer full of dried beans that I so often forget to soak in time to use at dinnertime!)….

    • cookwithwhatyouhave says:

      Excellent Shawn! Report on your results. And by soaking in their own liquid are you referring to my suggestion to let them cool in their cooking liquid after they are tender? If so, yes, by all means. Huge improvement in flavor and texture if you that. I do drain the soaking liquid that the soaked in BEFORE i cook them and start with fresh water for that part. Happy bean cooking!

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