a big pot of beans

The wind is shimmying through the trees outside, green waving against grey. Danny insists we turn on the heater in the mornings, then Lu takes off her socks to put her feet near the fire. When she moves to her kitchen to play, our daughter is making soups, stews, and pies.

Definitely fall.

Time for the weekly pot of beans.

In the spring and summer, we don’t eat nearly as many beans as we do in the darker months. Drop the temperature below 60 and I want a pot of plump black beans in the refrigerator, waiting to be eaten.

It doesn’t take much to make a great pot of beans.

Start with great beans. We adore Rancho Gordo beans. Adore. Steve Sando has saved heirloom beans from extinction and made many meals happy in this house. Once you taste great beans — and there are plenty of other people growing great beans, especially at your farmers’ market — you might have a hard time going back to grocery store beans.

But even grocery store beans work fine.

Do you soak your beans? There’s an old myth that you MUST soak your beans if you want to avoid flatulence. Well, that’s not true. You can cook beans without soaking them. We do all the time, when we’re in a rush. But if you have the time — and especially if you are planning ahead to make a big pot of beans for the week — cover the beans with some water and let them sit overnight. They will cook more quickly if you have soaked them. They will plump up more, break less, and have a more consistent texture. But you can still cook them without soaking them.

This morning, after we warmed our feet by the fire, we three moved to the kitchen. Danny made more coffee for us. Lu climbed up onto the counter and began making something with the squashes lined up along the window. (“I making lunch for my boy!” she said. There are so many imaginary siblings and friends right now that I can’t keep the names straight. Thankfully, I can remember My Boy.) I pulled out the masa harina.

We went a few days without masa in the house and I felt the loss. It’s so easy to make corn tortillas — mix masa and water in the right proportions; knead it with your hands gently until it comes together soft; press it; cook on a hot skillet — that I often make up a batch on the spot. This morning, with a hungry three-year-old, I couldn’t dally and figure out a fabulous recipe for breakfast. Time to eat, now.

Thank goodness for the pot of beans.

In this case, we had some leftovers of the split yellow peas I had cooked up on Tuesday. We bought these at the farm store for Nash’s Organic in Sequim last week. (There was also a visit to a game farm, where we were surrounded by a herd of buffalo who seemed determined to hump our car, but that’s another story.) On a whim, I cooked them up.

Sauté an onion, a shallot, some garlic. Throw in some smoked paprika. A handful of Italian parsley. Add the beans. Enough water to cover them, plus one inch more. Bring to a boil and let it roil away for 5 minutes. Then, turn down the burner, walk away to play with the kid or read a book on the couch, and simmer the beans for an hour and a half. Or less. Or more. Just check once in awhile. When the beans are almost done, add some salt and pepper. Taste them in a few moments. Decide if you need more. When the beans are entirely tender, you’re done.

And then you have beans ready for breakfast.

Homemade corn tortillas, those smoked paprika peas, sauteed spinach, and some cheese.

We three had a lovely breakfast together while the wind nudged the trees into letting go of their leaves.

60 comments on “a big pot of beans

  1. Coco

    Shauna — Around here, we love freshly made corn tortillas too! Gluten-Free Boy (a.k.a. my other half) was amazed the first time I made them for him, and they are so easy and fast! Tortilla presses are cheap and wonderful, an equipment staple for any GF kitchen for sure. Also, your beans look delicious! We’ve been enjoying varieties from Zürsun Ideaho Heirloom Beans, as well as the Seed Savers Exchange, which sells not only seeds for planting, but also cooking beans through their website.

  2. Adrienne

    I have just recently discovered the pleasure of making my own beans instead of buying canned. So much more flavorful and can be used in so many ways. Filling, tasty, nutritious — and cheap! I just put them on on a day that I’m home and doing other things. It’s great that you can just put them on and forget about them.

  3. Gruppie Mama

    Isn’t it funny, I had NO idea that farmer’s market dried beans tasted SO different from store dried beans until our CSA farmer started having them for us last winter. Holy canoli, they are out of this world better. How did you make the yellow split peas? Curious for more ideas for my GFCF AND no corn kiddo’s meals!

  4. Elaine

    One of my favorite breakfasts, stuff pretty much anything in a tortilla with a chipotle and I’m a happy girl:) A few years ago a friend grew black beans and gifted me with some. They cooked in less than an hour with out any soaking and they were so very good. We have a variety of locally grown beans here at our Coop, I’ve not tried Rancho Gordo. Must try!

  5. Gaia

    It’s totally weird that I haven’t mastered cooking dried beans, right? I decided last week this was the season it was gonna happen! Thanks so much for the extra push and recipe!

  6. Ryan

    I’m pretty sure corn tortillas are my favorite thing ever.

    The blackened edges on the tortilla… did you reheat them over a gas burner after cooking them in the skillet?

    1. shauna

      I didn’t reheat them that way. I started them on a hot cast-iron skillet then finished them on the open flame of a gas burner. It’s so easy!

  7. Leslie DR

    I also had bean-intimidation issues. I’ve been learning how to use pressure cookers, and it has revolutionized beans for me. Whether you soak overnight and cook in a regular pot or in a pressure cooker (cannellini beans in 14 minutes!!!) there is nothing like a pot of beans in the fridge – breakfast, lunch or dinner – or even puree’d as a snack! Now I guess it’s on to a tortilla press, but first I’m trying soccorat with chickpea flour.

  8. Jen Oliver

    Oh gosh, I love bean tacos for breakfast. Those look so good. My father is first-gen Mexican-American. Beans and tortillas were household staples when I was growing up (even if my mom could never quite get the hang of making round tortillas, they were still delicious). Give either me or him a bowl of good beans, some good, spicy salsa and warm corn tortillas and we will be happy campers. Rancho Gordo beans are very good indeed. Husband and I are hooked, and we’ve got my parents hooked as well.

  9. Jenni

    Just this morning my daughter asked me to make corn tortillas and I told her it’s a long process. Then I read your post. Okay – not a long process, then! Looking forward to buying some masa harina and trying them out. Beautiful post. Mm.

  10. elizabeyta

    I have beans soaking as I type. Last night we had “tostadas.” No tortillas underneath but I made chips to go on the side. Mango. Pineapple. Black beans seasoned with onion, garlic, salt, black pepper, chipolte, ancho, and paprika. Lettuce. Tomato. Avocado. Salsa. Simple. Does not get much better then that!

  11. Gilda Claudine

    Oh boy, we are big on beans at my house. And corn tortillas. The really fresh ones are hard to come by where I live and you’ve inspired me to break out the masa more often. (I even have a totally awesome wood tortilla press.)

    I think somewhere along the way we humans fooled ourselves into thinking that shortcuts were either better or just as good as the alternative. When I read posts like this one, I can feel the “sea change.” ¡Gracias!

  12. Kristina

    Thanks for writing this *just* for me, because you knew I have a big, new bag of Masa Harina and my cast-iron tortilla press arrived in the mail yesterday and needs broken in.

  13. Daniel

    What ratios do you normally for corn tortillas? Mine generally always come out with a raw corn taste to them. Not bad, but not the best either.

  14. Ann from Montana

    Another corn tortilla/pot of beans “maker”…LOVE both and especially in the Fall but I succomb to both year round. I’m lately on a beans(black lentil/red bean) /brown rice/cabbage bender…sauteed in a bit of olive oil with vinegar at the end and a bit of grated cheese ala your photo.

    As you said, so nice to make a pot of beans for the week. I add a large amount of brown rice to that. The cabbage I chop for the day and the cheese I grate for the meal. Simple, nutritious and just darn good!

    Wonderful share.

  15. Michelle @ Turning Over a New Leaf

    I love this! I made corn tortillas from masa harina (instead of prepared masa dough–something apparently rare to find outside the Southwest) for the first time yesterday. I loved how quick they were to make! I’m also always inspired by your often veggie-filled savory breakfast. Really opens up so many more possibilities in my mind!

  16. cari

    I always spend a day or two a year canning beans so that I have a shelf full to pull from when I am in a hurry. I have found a big difference between beans I soak, cook and the pressure can myself and what comes in the can in the store. It is a full day of labor to be sure and you must have a pressure canner, a water bath canner won’t do. So worth it in the dead of winter when I want beans on a whim. Your idea of keeping a pot on hand in the fridge works too. This meal looks so good. I wish I could get the corn tortilla thing down,

  17. Brooksie

    Thank you thank you THANK YOU!!! I am struggling to become gluten free after noticing that when I don’t have gluten I feel LOADS

  18. Brooksie

    Thank you, Thank you, THANK YOU!!!
    I am struggling to go completely GF after noticing that I feel LOADS better when I go without gluten for a few days, and then when I have something with it I feel kinda crappy.
    I came across your site looking for gluten free recipes and have stuck around..not only for your wonderful recipes, but also your bubbly personality.
    Thank you for sharing your works of deliciousness and your life with all of us!
    I didn’t realize how easy it is to make your own tortillas. ^_^

  19. Stan Starsky

    This really looks good…I also agree with your comments about cooking beans. I also prefer to soak the beans because it makes them so much easier to cook (you also save energy due to faster cooking time), however, sometimes I forget to soak and will just cook them.

    I am going to give this a try this weekend.

  20. Raquel

    Got my Publix Greenwise magazine, and there was a recipe that totally plugged your site! Just a few days after I discovered you… strange coincidence. And corn tortillas are the BEST. I haven’t perused every recipe on your site yet, but you gotta make tamales out of that masa sometime, too.

  21. gluten free gift

    Beans are an amazing staple – and can be added to so many things to make an instant “meal” – I was surprised to read so many negative things about beans when looking into the Paleo diet this week… never mind that! I could never give up beans!! The ultimate fiber and protein – so important on the gluten-free diet!

    1. shauna

      I don’t understand why anyone could think beans are bad for you! of all the foodstuffs in the world…

  22. Brie

    Love your site, Shauna, and it’s been a huge help in going gluten-free. (Only took 15 years to figure this out for me…sigh…) But I read this:
    It’s so easy to make corn tortillas — mix masa and water in the right proportions; knead it with your hands gently until it comes together soft; press it; cook on a hot skillet — that I often make up a batch on the spot.
    and now I really need more information. I’d love to make my own corn tortillas. Please?


  23. AmandaonMaui

    Even though we don’t have the same fall feel at my house, I still have been cooking a pot of beans every week. Lately it’s been garbanzo beans. I love them. I love their mouth feel, their flavor, and the smell of them cooking in the pot.

    Tonight we’re having them on brown rice with broccoli and Tillamook medium cheddar. I’m excited. Especially after a hard workout on the treadmill.

    I’m planning on baking some of the corn tortillas I have so we can have chips again. I’m liking doing that better than buying fried chips.

    1. Ann from Montana

      AmandaonMaui …oh… Amanda on Maui :)! Just had to second making chips! I do fry my homemade tortillas for chips but the thing I discovered – for me, if I know that 1 tortilla makes 8 chips, it is much easier to eat a “serving”…vs buying a bag and thinking…how can they think 16 chips is a serving ????? The more things I make myself and understand exactly what is in them, the easier it gets for me to do appropriate portion control.

  24. vanessa

    It’s actually well worth it to soak beans: it vastly improves their digestibility (hence the flatulence association – that’s what you get when you eat canned beans!) and nutrient bioavailability (soaking in water overnight, especially with a spoonful of apple cider vinegar, decreases the phytic acid that naturally occurs on plants and inhibits nutrient absorption). Therefore, this step is a must for the “digestively-challenged” among us! 😉

  25. crista

    I love how you talk about your husband and your daughter. I can’t wait to have children! Thanks for tips on beans, I had no idea the soaking was a myth! Enjoy the turning season 🙂

  26. molly

    i just scratched out a hurried menu-ish thing on the chalkboard for the week, with a generic ‘burrito bowl’ placeholder for tomorrow (everyone adds what they wish). and i do believe you are absolutely right, it is time to set a big pot of beans on to simmer.

    i needed the nudge.

    happy fall, shauna.

    1. shauna

      happy fall, Molly. I’d love to share that burrito bowl with you. (Hm. That’s how I need to use the chalkboard in our kitchen.)

  27. Gena

    Shauna, I love the idea of a weekly tradition in whipping up some beans. I’ve gotten into the lazy habit of canned ones, but there’s no excuse, especially with you tempting my tastebuds with talk of paprika and shallot or onion! Thanks for the inspiration.

  28. Kelly

    Oh I HATE that game farm. It’s so depressing. When we were driving our kids through it I was saying things like, “This place makes mommy sad.” It’s like a zoo from 1920 or something.

  29. Bijoux

    Hi There Shuna.

    I love your blog and read it often. I’m Coeliac, and pretty much lactose free too, well no obvious added milk or cream seems to do it, but some processed hard cheeses I can manage. And I find you an absolute inspiration inspiration when it comes to baking, especially when trying not to use Xthan Gum but different blends of flours.

    But… am I just not getting it? An hour and a half to boil beans for breakfast? With a small child? Surviving on coffee, reading and playing games?

    I really don’t think adherence to a restricted diet should be quite so punishing or puritanical. Surely you can supply breakfast goods which are healthy and nutritious without resorting to C16th cooking skills? I’m no less diligent in my cuisine, but maybe I’m able to be a little more chilled. I know you no longer eat eggs, but there’s plenty of very good g/f cereals available, you can bake bread or muffins or even porridge. I’m sure you don’t need ideas from me, but an hour and a half to wait for breakfast seems an unnecessary recipe for an irritable start to the day to me, if not for you, must be a struggle for Lu even if she didn’t show it.

    1. shauna

      I didn’t make Lu wait an hour and a half. Goodness, I make up a pot of beans on a Sunday night and use them all week. That’s what I meant. We eat plenty of foods for breakfast. However, I don’t think making beans from scratch is 16th century! If Lu is hungry, she gets food. That’s not a problem here.

  30. Michele

    I got a cooking tip recently from someone that has helped with the ‘windy’ problem and dried beans…thought I’d ‘pass’ it along 🙂 I add a half of piece of Kombu (dried seaweed) to the cooking water. It adds all sorts of wonderful minerals to the broth the beans cook in. If it flavors the beans (I don’t find it does) it is only in a positive way. Some eat the cooked and softened seaweed. We don’t. We now eat our beans from dried regularly after learning this little tip as the other issue? Now a non-issue.

    Our favorite is based on beans we eat at a restaurant when in Italy…. cannellini beans cooked in olive oil with whole sage leaves, garlic, S&P. Cook at 450-500 until the beans are brown and crackling on the outside and soft on the inside.

    You can get Kombu anywhere you buy Japanese products. Here I get a little bag at PCC for about $6 and it lasts for a long time.

    Can’t wait to try the Rancho Gordo’s!

  31. molly

    hey. me again. don’t mean to be redundant. but sometimes it seems people are always declaring their intentions (me included), but you’re always left to wonder.

    so i just wanted to report back: i put a big pot of black beans on the stove this morning. they simmered and burbled all morning, onion and kombu and garlic bobbling about. we had big slurpy spoonfuls over brown rice, with tortillas and/or cumin beef and/or salsa and/or jack and/or whatever pleased. even my will-not-eat-anything tried them. (he adores black beans. but only from a can. and i admit, canned black beans are damn fine. still and all, it would be nice to get down a few homemade ones, now and again. and he did.)

    that pot of beans was a highlight of my day. thanks for the nudge, shauna.

    happy drippy pear eating to you (oh, those comices!!)

    1. shauna

      Oh, this makes me so happy. And I think I’m putting black beans to soak tonight, because now I need black beans, brown rice, tortillas, and salsa. You know, I’ve never heard of putting kombu in with beans, but you’re the second person today to mention it. I’m going to have to investigate this!

  32. KCatGU

    Apartment Therapy had this to say about Kombu and beans
    Here are some of our favorite ways to use this sea vegetable:
    To soften beans. The amino acids in kombu help soften beans and make them more digestible. Add a 4-6″ strip of kombu to a pot of cooking beans. After an hour or two, the kombu will disintegrate when stirred. (Any stray pieces should be tender enough to eat, or you can remove them.)


    I never knew either Shauna

  33. Elizabetyh

    So thankful to find out about your favorite beans!! I signed up for the newsletter so I don’t forget to order some.
    Peace and Raw Health,

  34. Else

    I’ve discovered another use for homemade corn tortillas – just make them a little thicker and a little smaller and voila! Hamburger buns!

  35. Amanda

    Shauna I owe you!!! After reading this I decided to order some of Rancho Gordo beans and give beans one last try!!! Today was the day, after soaking the beans, I cooked up a big pot of pinquito beans with garlic, onions and some spices and they were DELICIOUS!!! SO VERY TASTY and is so hard to stop popping back into the kitchen to eat some more 🙂

    Thank you so much, my family are so happy that beans will become a regular around here 🙂

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