I recently attended the Beans for a Better Life conference in Austin, TX, and when I returned, I was determined to try my hand at cooking dry beans. I typically rely on canned dry beans, so I was looking forward to the cooking challenge. Would I be able to produce the same smooth and tender consistency you get from canned beans? Lynne Bigwood from the Northarvest Bean Growers Association, assured me that if I followed a few simple steps, my beans would rival those from a can. So off I went to the grocery store for a pound of dry pinto beans. Read on for Lynne’s fool-proof cooking method and a recipe for Cheesy Bean Pie.
This pie, made with rice, beans, cheese, and lots of other comforting ingredients hit the spot this weekend. To spice it up, you can add cumin and chili powder.
Cheesy Bean Pie
Makes 8 Servings
I found this recipe in The Bean Cookbook by the Northarvest Bean Growers Association and adapted it a bit by using melted butter instead of margarine in the crust and leaving the parsley out since I didn’t have any on hand. The original recipe also called for a 1/4 cup layer of sliced black olives, but I left them out because my hubby isn’t an olive fan. Feel free to add the olives if your family likes them!
For the Rice Shell:
- 2½ cups cooked rice (I used leftover brown rice)
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- 1 tablespoon melted butter
1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly oil or coat a 10-inch pie plate with nonstick cooking spray and set aside. Place the rice, egg, parsley and butter in a large bowl and stir until well combined. Press the rice mixture firmly into the pie plate and up the sides to form a “shell.”
For the Filling:
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 1 small onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice (1/2 cup)
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 cups cooked pinto or kidney beans, divided (I used the beans I cooked from scratch, but canned beans would work too)
- 1½ cups shredded reduced-fat Cheddar cheese, divided
- 3/4 cup leftover spiral ham or lower sodium deli ham, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1. Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook an additional 1 minute. Set aside.
2. Layer as follows in the rice shell: 1 cup beans, 3/4 cup of the cheese, all the ham, all the onion and garlic, the remaining 1 cup beans, and the remaining 3/4 cup cheese.
For the Custard:
- 3 large eggs, beaten
- 1/2 cup light sour cream
- 1/2 cup 1% low-fat milk
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1. Place the eggs, sour cream, milk, salt, and pepper in a large bowl and whisk until well combined. Pour evenly over the layered pie.
2. Bake until the custard mixture is set and the top is golden brown, about 35 minutes.
Nutrition Information per Serving: 280 calories, 11g fat (5g saturated, 0.3g omega-3), 550mg sodium, 28g carbohydrate, 5g fiber, 17g protein, 10% vitamin A, 25% calcium, 10% iron
Okay, now back to my bean challenge. Here are the steps I followed to achieve perfect cooked dry beans:
> Wash the beans and pick out any small stones.
> In a large pot, heat 10 cups of bottled or filtered water to boiling. Add the dry beans and boil 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat, cover and let stand 4 hours or overnight … but no more than 16 hours. I soaked mine for 12 hours.
> When the beans are done soaking, drain off the soak water. Rinse both the beans and the pot with fresh water. Cover the beans with bottled or filtered water (add a teaspoon of salt if desired) and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until tender, 10 minutes minimum. (The typical cook time is 15 to 45 minutes;my pinto beans were tender in 30).
* The reason for using bottled or filtered water is that many public water supplies contain minerals, including calcium, which prevent beans from getting tender. If you know for sure that you have “soft” water, feel free to use tap water.
A one-pound bag of pinto beans yields over 6 cups after soaking and simmering.
To cook beans in a pressure cooker, we turned to our good friend and fellow dietitian, Jill Nussinow (AKA The Veggie Queen) for advice. Here’s what she had to say: “I do a quick, or overnight, soak. I drain and then add at least ½ cup water for each dry cup of beans that were rehydrated. Bring to high pressure for 4 to 6 minutes. Let the pressure come down naturally. How long the beans take to cook depends upon the variety and how old the beans are.”
Has anyone had good luck cooking dry beans? Or challenges? We hope these tips help make your next batch of beans tender and delicious!