If putting a big pot of dried beans on the stove to simmer away for few hours sounds like a totally winter thing to you, you may be missing out on some of summer’s best dinners. As we’ve pointed out recently, sometimes cooking a large batch of something low and slow is the answer to cutting down on dinnertime stress. And there’s always the Instant Pot, which makes quick work of cooking dried beans, no steamy stovetop pot necessary. Once your beans are cooked and stashed in the fridge, they’re a boon for meal planning, easily filling out satisfying main-dish salads, sautés, and toasts: the kind of summer-friendly meals that are more assembly than cooking.
To suss out some more warm-weather bean tactics, I turned to a few favorite chefs and cookbook authors to learn how they prepare beans in the summer and which legumes they’re most likely to grab from the grocery store shelf (or click into their online cart). Here’s what they had to say:
Le Puy green lentils
Go-to cooking method: I like green lentils because they’re quick to cook and full of iron and protein—plus they work great [and hold their shape] in soups, stews, or salads. I usually add a lot of aromatics or spices to the cooking liquid: garlic, onion, bay leaf, clove, cinnamon bark, and thyme. My base is typically water, but I’ll usually add a generous hit of miso to incorporate some umami. I think the best way to cook legumes at home is in a pressure cooker: all the flavor gets packed into the lentil, and you’ll also get a naturally creamy stock as a byproduct.
What’s your summer bean sitch?: I love local pinto beans. There’s a farmers market that’s walking distance from my house and I always look forward to getting these pinto beans that are only available at the end of summer. A quick dinner move would be a bean soup topped with a “backyard” pesto. If you have herbs or some sort of green growing outside, you can whip together something pretty easily to dress up your beans! Serve with sourdough bread and a generous drizzle of olive oil.
Cannellini beans or Umbrian lentils
Go-to cooking method: In winter, I cook cannellini beans in a spiced tomato sauce with lamb shanks or pork belly. After the meat has braised (in water), for about 45 minutes, I add the beans and cook for another 45 minutes. At the end, I’ll add tomato paste and a combination of cinnamon, allspice, and black pepper. As for the lentils, I liked to cook them separately first, then finish them in a fresh tomato sauce with carrots, and serve them topped with fresh yogurt and dill.
What’s your summer bean sitch?: In summer, I buy fresh butter beans and cook them simply, in water without salt. Once done and drained, I dress them with lemon juice, olive oil, fresh garlic, salt, and I add a little chopped parsley at the end.
Name: Yohanis Gebreyesus, chef/owner of Antica and Weyra restaurants in Addis Ababa, television host, and author of Ethiopia: Recipes and Traditions From the Horn of Africa.
Go-to cooking method: In Ethiopia we have this very tasty dish called shimbra wat (sometimes spelled chembra wot). It’s basically a spicy pea stew but uses flaxseed as a thickener. The sauce is made from flaxseed powder mixed with dileh berbere, the most significant Ethiopian hot spice. This mix is added to water and cooked on low heat until the berbere heat is tempered. The peas are boiled separately and added to the mix before seasoning with salt.
What’s your summer bean sitch?: In Ethiopia, it’s essentially summer 10 months out of the year, the remainder constituting the rainy season. So, instead of seasons, our approach to legumes is mostly based on religious restrictions. But, if I’m wanting something quick for dinner and I have cooked peas in the refrigerator, I might cook some finely chopped onion with ajowan, reduce some stock, mix both with the peas, and eat with bread or injera.
Name: Lesley Tellez, journalist and author of Eat Mexico: Recipes From Mexico City’s Streets, Markets, and Fondas
Go-to cooking method: Honestly, I will cook any kind of bean, but pintos feel the most familiar to me, because that’s what I ate growing up. How I cook them depends on how much time I have: Before I had kids I would only cook beans on the stovetop. Now, with two kids under the age of five, I don’t have time to babysit a pot and see if it’s still simmering, if it needs more water, etc. Usually what I do is cook the beans about 80 percent through in the Instant Pot with only water. Then I finish them on the stovetop: I get a big pot and fry a small wedge of onion and a whole, peeled garlic clove in a little oil until they’re golden and blistered. Then I add the beans, the bean broth, salt, and if I’m feeling it, ground cumin and Mexican oregano. If I feel like pampering myself, I do the stovetop portion in my clay bean pot with Rancho Gordo Rio Zape beans—they are ridiculously good this way. And it feels like a luxury, to have my clay pot simmering away on the stove, filling up the kitchen with lovely aromas. If I’m able to find epazote from a reliable source close to my house, I’d also add a stalk or two. I love beans flavored with epazote.
What’s your summer bean sitch?: I cook my beans the same way regardless of the season. For a quick dinner, I’ll turn them into refried beans with tostadas. My kids love them, and my husband loves them, and the adults get to douse ours with hot sauce.
Go-to cooking method: My favorite beans are scarlet runner and royal corona (unfortunate name in these times, but lovely!). For most varieties I prefer to soak the beans in filtered water overnight and then cook in fresh water in a pressure cooker. It’s the best way to achieve a creamy interior, while maintaining the beans’ shape. Also, when using a pressure cooker, there’s no need to use any aromatics since the liquid is so flavorful after cooking. However, I do like to add a 2-inch piece of kombu—it helps tenderize the beans, and it enhances the flavor and adds minerals.
Go-to cooking method: Regardless of how long I’ve lived in the U.S., I still look at beans as dessert. In Thailand, instead of buying yogurt cups with fruit preserves in the bottom, they come with sweetened corn kernels, barley, and beans, and it’s so good. But, when I’m not thinking of beans as dessert, I’m thinking of them as a meat substitute—so I sometimes make lap (sometimes spelled larb) with beans instead of ground meat. At least, I started out using beans as a meat substitute—now it’s become part of my repertoire because the navy beans get so creamy; and because they’re bland, they take to the vibrant flavors of Thai cuisine really, really well. It’s become a dish unto itself.
I always soak dry beans overnight and just cook them in a pot of water. I don’t pre-season the beans or add any aromatics because then I can turn 70 percent of the pot into dessert and eat the other 30 percent in a savory way. I also don’t like to use a pressure cooker for beans because I want that control of knowing when my beans are perfectly cooked. If I have cooked beans waiting in the fridge, I’ll warm them in a skillet and then hit them with some lime juice, fish sauce, galangal, and some herbs: cilantro, dill (which is used quite a lot in the North and North Eastern parts of Thailand), and culantro. And I’ll add some toasted ground rice, red pepper flakes, and a sliced shallot. And then serve it warm, but not hot.
Tell me more about your go-to bean dessert: It’s very simple. You just put the cooked beans in a skillet, add a little coconut milk and just warm it through. Add some palm sugar and a pinch of salt, and that’s pretty much it. I like to eat it a little warm, but you could eat it cold, too, although the coconut solids may harden a little if it’s too cold.
Red beans and lima beans
Go-to cooking method: I always spread the beans on a baking sheet at home, which allows me to pick out any weird looking beans and, more importantly, rocks that sometimes get missed. I soak the beans overnight, strain them, and then place them in a pot with fresh water to cover and add a whole onion, if I’m cooking meat-free. If that is not the case, I’ll cook the beans in stock that most likely includes smoked meat. I let them cool and stash them to eat the next day—most likely as red beans and rice.
Name: Einat Admony, chef/owner of multiple restaurants in New York City, and co-author of Shuk: From Market to Table, the Heart of Israeli Home Cooking
Go-to cooking method: I always soak my beans overnight before cooking. I like to soak them in big batches and freeze them in smaller portions so I can cook with them at a moment’s notice. If I’m planning to make a bean purée (such as hummus) I add a pinch of baking soda to the soaking water to help the beans soften properly, but I never use salt or acid until after the beans are completely cooked through. I’ll also only add herbs and spices to the beans once they’re cooked, depending on the dish I’m making.
What’s your summer bean sitch?: The most common ingredients I pair with cooked beans are harissa and chopped herbs and vegetables: thyme, garlic, rosemary, mirepoix, and olive oil. Specifically for black beans, [I’ll use a] charred Mexican sofrito.
Go-to cooking method: Of all beans, white beans are my favorite. There are so many different varieties that fall under the category: navy beans, great northerns, cannellini, and baby limas (also called butter beans). I also love heirloom varieties like cranberry (borlotti) and Marcella beans (named after legendary cookbook author Marcella Hazan). I most prefer navy beans because they are creamy and earthy and hold their shape even when cooked for long periods of time, and they don’t require an overnight soak.
I start my beans (any of the varieties mentioned above will work) by browning diced salt pork in canola oil. Then I add diced onions, celery, and a bay leaf. Add the beans, cover with water and bring to a boil, then simmer uncovered for 50 to 60 minutes. Mash some of the beans against the side of the pot, stir them into the liquid and season with salt, black pepper, and cayenne.
What’s your summer bean sitch?: The beans will be white or red, and while the method for cooking them stays the same, what I eat with them can change with the seasons. In summer that could mean fried oysters or shrimp, soft shell shrimp, soft shell crabs, or fish. If I could choose my last meal, it would be shrimp jambalaya, white beans, and fried seafood, all served on one plate. I can’t get enough of these three dishes especially when they come with a summer salad of cucumbers and tomatoes and pickled okra.
Big-Batch Instant Pot White BeansAnna Stockwell
Originally Appeared on Epicurious