There's something magical about a rich soup or stew bubbling away on the stove. With a slow simmer, flavors deepen and become complex. It harkens back to an image of a cauldron and the magic of a transformative fire.
Somehow, the cauldron idea did not appeal when it came to cooking beans. It was labor intensive and beans ended up cooked irregularly, with lingering hard ones or entirely smashed ones.
When it came to beans, it seemed like using canned ones was the simplest choice. All the debate about soak or not to soak, salt or no salt, just how long to cook the beans and all the stirring for who-knows-how-many-hours left many of us less than enthused.
So, it was no surprise that over the years we gave up and took the path of least resistance... canned beans.
Of course, it's not a failure if you use canned beans. Sometimes, it's just easier. It's better to have canned beans than none at all.
But, cans of beans are not terribly inspiring and consequently, we didn't often cook with beans even though we really liked them.
Dried Beans Versus Canned Beans
Dried beans come in a wide range of colors and sizes. Gigante beans, baby lima beans, red beans, black beans, and white Northern beans, just to name a few.
Buying dried beans is a pleasing process. All those bean pebbles feel nice in your hand. So many possibilities lie within little bits of goodness. They're easily transported and stored.
The price of dried beans is especially helpful. And, environmentally speaking, there are no tin cans or BPA to worry about. If you buy your beans in bulk, you don't even have plastic bags.
Dried beans sang a siren call, but not really being sure what to do with them meant they remained on the store shelf.
Then, we found out about using a Dutch oven to cook our beans.
Dutch Oven To The Rescue
Looking on the internet, there were several articles about baking beans in the oven in a Dutch oven. Dutch ovens function both as a pot on the stove top as well as in the oven.
Dutch oven is a misnomer, in that two well-known brands, Le Creuset and Staub, are made in France. Lodge is another brand of Dutch oven made in China. Dutch oven refers to a cast iron pot with a tight-fitting, oven-proof lid and often with a ceramic interior finish.
The idea of using a Dutch oven to cook dried beans was intriguing. The gentle, unhurried simmer that takes place in the oven is particularly pleasing.
The beans remain intact because they don't have constant stirring to break them down. There is no scorching on the bottom of the pan. It's very hands-off. The beans do their job of cooking while you do other things around the house. There's no need to stir during their bake time.
Canned garbanzos tend to be hard and roll all over the plate. Sometimes, there seems to be a slight bitterness to the flavor. Not so with the garbanzos we cooked in the oven. In fact, the broth is delicious – worthy of sipping all on its own.
Home cooked means you're in charge of their cooking time. We cooked our garbanzo beans until they were somewhat soft. The garbanzos had tender skins that melted into the buttery flesh of the beans. They even had a sweetness to them.
How To Cook Your Beans In The Oven
Any dried beans can be cooked in a Dutch oven.
Here are instructions to prepare half a package of beans which is usually 8 ounces.
First, rinse them in cold water to take any dust off of them. Place them into a large bowl, sprinkle 1.5 Tablespoons of kosher salt on them. Cover with 8 cups of water. Let sit over night, from 12 to 18 hours.
Drain and give the beans a brief rinse in cold water. Place beans in a 4 quart Dutch oven. Sprinkle 1.5 teaspoons of kosher salt over them. Add 6 cups of water. Cover with lid.
Place in a 300º Fahrenheit oven and bake for 1.5 hours to 2 hours depending on how soft you want your beans. Don't stir, just let them cook.
Check them for doneness and if you think they need more time, you can put them back in the oven and check every 15 minutes until desired softness.
Below: white Navy beans cooked in a Dutch oven. No stirring required.
If you want to double the recipe, using the whole package of beans, use a bigger Dutch oven.
Use your cooked beans right away, or once the beans are cooled, place them in containers and store in the refrigerator. If you've cooked a whole package and find you have too many to consume right away, they freeze beautifully. They're easy to thaw in the refrigerator.
Add beans to soups or salads as desired. Be sure to keep some of the broth, it adds a lot of flavor.
Students Of TRT®
For those who have studied The Radiance Technique® (TRT®), you can enhance the life-force energy in your food by holding it in your radiant hands for a few minutes. This applies to your dried beans too.
You can also place your hands about an inch above your food to help you connect to it consciously. For students of The Second Degree of TRT®, you can direct radiant energy to what you are about to eat. Your food is meant to nourish you and directing universal energy helps to lift that connection.
Garbanzos Transformed Into Hummus
Oven-baked garbanzos can be used to make homemade hummus, like in this photo. The recipe is from Bon Appétit: Classic Chickpea Hummus.
The recipe calls for a can of garbanzo beans, but you can substitute your own oven-cooked beans. About 1 1/2 cup of cooked beans equal one can.
The next time you see some dried beans, take some home and pull out your Dutch oven to prepare them.
Deliciousness awaits you.