Here's what got me passed my stubborn irritation with the tone of An Everlasting Meal. Beans.
Historically, my beans have come out one of two ways: crunchy or flat. Never creamy. Never savory. Never just right. Always, just. not. quite. right. darn.
Until Tamar Adler's engaging chapter on beans, "How to Live Well." I loved it. All my persnickety feelings about Adler fell away in a woosh because she wrote to me, to my failure and gave me hope.
How's that for crazy praise? I'm serious, though. Sure, boil water. Sure, roast your vegetables. But beans?
I've tried the fast soak, the overnight soak (the biggest failure because I wouldn't make them in the morning), and now. I do both. Whatever is convenient. Why? The end result is turning into a damn good bean that extends into soups and tortillas and salads and whatever. Not that I'm not making too large a batch — our freezer is a NY freezer — but the taste and the doneness. Thank you, Tamar, for giving me the gift of beans.
You can't tell that she likes it, but she said, "Oh, Mama. This is delicious!" And ate the whole bowl.
The mix is Good Mother Stoddard beans from Rancho Gordo that I cooked with a half a rib of celery and a bit of shallot in the mix. The trick, according to Adler, is to rinse the beans between the soak (or fast boil/soak) and cooking AND to add salt and some aromatics. Brilliant. Rancho Gordo suggests being unfussy with these beans and that they shouldn't be wasted on smashing or soup. Agreed. They are plump beauties, meant to be viewed before savoring.
The other genius tip is in checking for doneness. She tests five beans. I've upped my bean testing and it's made a difference. But she also noted a method in which you blow on the bean to see if the skin pulls up and curls away. If it does, you're done. It also works. My beans have been creamy and flavorful and useful.
These beans, for example, I made last night using the fast soak method (boil, then let them sit covered, off heat for two hours then simmer until done.) I heated some olive oil and did a quick softening of the rest of the shallot, a couple of carrots, and a bit of celery. Added the beans and leftover pasta with zucchini. The broth with the pasta and beans was terrific. Almost a soup, but not quite. Happy foursome were we at lunch today.