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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

How to Make a Simple Pot of Beans

It sometimes amazes me how hard it can be to keep a New Year's resolution. I know it is not even Christmas yet and I am talking about resolutions. The thing is I try to keep my resolutions light and fun, no weight loss goals here. Shouldn't resolutions be something that encourages you to do more of the things you love? So, I made two simple resolutions in 2012. The first was to spend more time exploring places in Alaska other than Fairbanks. The whole reason I moved here is that I was hoping to see more of Alaska. I did pretty well on that resolution. I made it to Homer for the Shorebird Festival in the spring. During that trip I was able to take a boat out to Tutka Bay. There were three trips to Denali National Park, although I really only got into the actual park once. Finally, I was able to go to McCarthy, Alaska. I drove the entire way, so I was able to see a whole lot of new Alaska ground. I'm not sure I would recommend driving an almost new car on that road however.
The second resolution was a seemingly simple one. Eat more beans. Now, I'm not talking baked beans in a can here. There is a whole world of dried heirloom beans out there and I wanted to try them all, or at least a good number of them. This was the second year I made this resolution and failed miserably.
I've been spending a whole lot of time alone lately and feeling pretty introspective since losing my job with the shut down of the organization. I think a lot about what I could have done better, or differently. I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel a small pang of regret. I gave up an entire year of my life and I can't help but wonder if I had put that much time and effort into this space, well I wonder where I would be now. I can't really do too much about that, but 2012 is not over yet and I can still try and eat more beans. So, this is my second batch in two weeks, not to mention I already have plans for the two remaining bags of beans in my cupboard.  That's pretty good right?
The temperatures have been hovering around -40 degrees here for a few days now. Nothing is more comforting than something warm simmering away on the stove when the weather turns bitter cold. I always hesitate to post these extremely simple recipes, but I always find they are the most viewed. I hope I might convert a few canned bean people out there, and who knows maybe you will decide to eat more beans in 2013. I'm moving on to a new resolution...
How to Make a Simple Pot of Beans
adapted from Heirloom Beans

1 pound of beans (any kind you like, I used Sangre de Toro, simple black beans would be great too)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small white or red onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped 
optional toppings:
lime wedges
chopped red onions
chopped cilantro
Monterey Jack cheese
tortilla chips

Place the beans in a strainer and rinse with cool water while checking for and removing debris and small pebbles. Place beans in a bowl and cover by about 1 inch with water. Cover bowl and let sit overnight. 
The next day...
Place a heavy bottomed stock pot over medium heat, add the olive oil. Saute the onions and garlic until soft and fragrant. Add the beans with their soaking water to the pot. If there is not enough water to cover the beans by about 1 inch add more cold water to the pot. Turn the heat to high and bring the beans to a boil and cook for 5 minutes. Reduce the head to bring the beans to a point of barely simmering and cook, partially covered for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until the beans are soft. Season with salt to taste. 
Place beans in bowls and top with your favorite ingredients which can include lime juice, fresh chopped onions, fresh cilantro, or Monterey jack cheese. Two of my favorites are crushed up tortilla chips or crumbled cornbread.
Beans can be a hearty lunch or served as a side dish with dinner.


  1. I love beans!! I'd like to explore more heirloom varieties as well. I got introduced to heirloom beans through the Foodzie box, back before they were acquired by Joyus. Rancho Gordo ( has some good ones! Lovely photos!

    1. I didn't learn about the Foodzie boxes until they were already bought out by Joyus. All those videos kill my slow internet so I have never ordered. The beans I do have came from Rancho Gordo however. I discovered them at the SF Ferry Terminal. I also like Phipps Country Store, they have a HUGE selection.

  2. This is my very favorite bean recipe, for a couple of years now this one has been in heavy rotation during the winter:

    1. Porky Pinto Beans are definitely on the bean list. Thanks Amy!

  3. I'm very much in the dried bean camp except for kidney beans. For some reason I just prefer them canned. In any event a pot of beans is a thing of beauty. In Kentucky we refer to pinto or great northern beans cooked all day with a ham bone as "soup beans". It's amazing how something so simple can taste so wonderful and complex. I'll hold you to the bean resolution, it's definitely a fun one. ;-)

  4. Oh I am horrible at sticking to resolution. I gave up on making those long back :)

  5. wow what an interesting recipe. It reminds me of one of my favorites, 'How make a cup of ketchup'. Simply pour ketchup into a cup from a bottle of ketchup...

  6. great post- I always try and grow a few new (old) varieties to try out over the winter in soups mostly. cranberry, yellow eye, soldier, jacobs cattle have all been good. And if you haven't been yet head out to Kodiak. A bit of a ferry ride or flight I miss being there now that I am back in Maine. -Christina


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