Call me crazy, but I don’t soak my beans before cooking – boy, there’s a joke in there somewhere. I just clean them in a bowl of water, discarding any muck and cracked, old, dried bits that accumulate at the top. Then I strain them, add them to a pot and cover with about two inches of water. Next toss in two bay leaves, a clove of garlic and a wedge of onion (that I pierce with a toothpick to keep intact while they cook). Bring to a boil and reduce to a strong simmer until cooked. Once they are cooked, add a good helping of salt. Don’t add the salt beforehand though or your beans will tear and dry out.
This recipe is basically my variation of refried beans — it makes good use of whatever beans we have left over from the night before and it’s delicious! I also use these beans to make my Santa Barbara-Style Black-Eyed Peas.
+/- 2 cups of cooked beans
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 thinly sliced pieces of white onion
Cheese of your choice — mozzarella, feta or jack
Simply heat up 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil in a pan with a few slivers of raw onion. Cook on medium high heat until the onion is translucent (you’re just flavoring the oil here). Next, remove the onion and add the pre-cooked beans and their liquid. On medium heat, sauté until warmed. Then smash the beans with a back of a large spoon until you have a dip-like consistency. Taste for seasoning. Serve with a sprinkling of cheese of your choice (mozzarella, jack and feta are strong options), some fresh chopped tomatoes and cilantro leaves, and you’re set for service.
I learned the “five-bean” test from Anne Burrell: try five beans from the pot to make sure that the entire pot is cooked because this ensures complete cooking.