We love beans. When I have a crock pot full of black beans, my kids keep pestering me to know when dinner is. My youngest daughter will often eat 4 bowls of black beans and rice. My Cuban relatives have been very impressed with them as well, so I guess I must be doing something right. If you're looking to save some money in the grocery store, buy beans. A bag of beans is usually less than a buck a one pound bag. Add some water and a ham hock, cook for 8 hours, add some rice and you have a meal. We top them with cheese, sour cream and hot sauce.
Just a few tips on beans. Wash them well before you add them to the pot. They are often dried on sheets on the ground in the field before being collected for sale, so there is often small pebbles and a bit of dust on the them. DO NOT add salt to the beans before you cook them. EVER!! Salt toughens the proteins in the bean and you could cook them from now until doomsday and they won't get tender. I find a crock pot and slow cooking them works best, but a few of my Cuban relatives swear by a pressure cooker. My wife's aunt cooked up a batch of dried black beans in 45 minutes in her pressure cooker. I was impressed. The high pressure forces the water into the bean and fast. She did the same cooking yucca, but that is for another blog.
I will add a ham hock or ham bone to the beans and plenty of water to cover. You may need to add more water as they cook and absorb all of the water. If you soak the beans overnight you will be less likely to need to add extra water to them since they have rehydrated earlier. After several hours in a crock pot and they have become tender, then add your seasoning. I like cumin, coriander, garlic powder, salt and pepper with some onion and bell pepper in our black beans. Don't forget to cut any of the meat off the bones you added for flavor. Dice it up and add to the beans.
Most people tend to like black beans as they are the most flavorful. Red beans are another fav, especially in the Deep South and Louisiana. Lima beans, or butter beans, are popular in the Carolinas. Pinto beans are a staple in the Southwest. Fava beans and garbonzo, or chick peas, are a middle eastern staple. Of course garbonzo beans are the key ingredient in hummus and after you make your own (read my previous blog at http://chefcheapo.blogspot.com/ for how to make hummus)and see how inexpensive it is, you won't pay $3 for an 8 ounce tub of it again. After you cook a batch yourself and see how easy it is (and cheap), you won't buy a can of beans again.
Whatever your favorite is or becomes, give them a try. Don't be afraid of them either. You never know- you may be “singing” a new tune !!