Bean Month Giveaways

Heirloom Beans by Wendy MacNaughton 

To celebrate the final week of Bean Month, a bunch of wonderful folks have contributed some fantastic, leguminous prizes. To be eligible to win the prizes, just post a picture of beans you've cooked or want to cook (or anything bean-related, really) to InstagramFacebook, or Twitter with the #beanmonth hashtag. I'll choose a winner each day, based entirely on my own whims and opinions (and nothing logical or quantitative) and get in touch about the best way to get you your prize.

Here's the lineup of prizes:
MONDAY: Three Pounds of Heirloom Beans from Rancho Llano Seco winner: @tomauratoday
TUESDAY: Bean Cooking Kit with goods from my own garden and kitchen winner: @luafletch
WEDNESDAY: $25 Gift Certificate to Good Eggs, so you can buy more beans than you can count winner: @reechardparks
THURSDAY: Handmade Flameware Bean Pot from Travis McFlynn winner: @andreagentl
FRIDAY: Extremely Limited, Edition-of-One Print of Heirloom Beans from Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, my forthcoming book, illustrated by Wendy MacNaughton and signed by both of us

Good luck to all! Get creative and inspiring with your posts!


Recipe: Niloufer's Everydal Dal

In my opinion, Niloufer Ichaporia King is one of our terribly undervalued culinary greats.  And her book, My Bombay Kitchen, is my subcontinental reference manual.  Part memoir, part cookbook, part history lesson, it's just one of those books that never goes out of style.

This is my go-to dal, or Indian red lentil, recipe, and it couldn't be easier to make.  Plus, it's DELICIOUS.  Served with plain rice, yogurt, and mango chutney, it makes a totally respectable and comforting dinner.  Add vegetables, chicken, lamb or seafood and call it a feast.

The beauty of lentils is that they require no soaking, and they cook up so quickly.  Keep red lentils on hand for legume emergencies--I do.

photo by Emily Nathan

Everyday Dal
from My Bombay Kitchen

1 cup red lentils (masur dal), husked split pigeon peas (tuvar dal), or mung beans (mung dal)
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon (or more) salt
1 onion, quartered (optional)
1 green chile (optional)
4 cups (or more) water
1 to 2 tablespoons ghee or butter
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
1 to 2 tablespoons finely chopped onion or shallot (optional)

Pick over the dal to remove stones and chaff. Rinse the dal and transfer to a pot; add the turmeric, 1/2 teaspoon salt, quartered onion, and chile, if using, along with at least 4 cups water. Bring to boil; reduce the heat and simmer, partly covered, until the dal is tender. (Masur and mung dals soften in about half the time it takes to cook tuvar dal, which needs a good 45 minutes to 1 hour.) Watch out for overboiling, even with the heat down.

When the dal is soft and mushy, pass through a sieve or a food mill or liquefy in a food processor or with an immersion blender, which saves you the trouble of pouring and transferring. The texture of the dal should be thick, smooth, and pourable. Taste for salt.

To finish, heat the ghee in a small skillet over medium heat. Sizzle the seeds, garlic, and onion, if using, until the garlic begins to brown around the edges and the seeds start to crackle. These sizzling seeds and garlic are known as vaghar in Gujarati, tarka in Hindi. Tip the vaghar into the dal and stir.

Dal Soup: Dal without vaghar makes an excellent cold soup. I've served it with a blob of yogurt and chive blossoms, or snipped chives or green onion tops.

Note: In my mother's house, it was considered good practice to send dal to the table in a tureen with the vaghar floating on top, a last-minute affair, although the flavors have a better chance to combine if you stir in the toasted spices ahead of time. If you're having dal as a first-course soup, you can serve individual portions with a little vaghar poured over each one.

Serves 6


Tamar Adler on BEANS

image source

Every January, I think of this article about Tamar's beautiful book, An Everlasting Meal. Tara Parker Pope was right--there's no better way to start the year than to commit to cooking more, and better, at home.  And for that, there is no better muse than Tamar.

When I asked Tamar recently if she had anything new to say about beans, she responded, "Re-reading what I wrote about beans a few years ago I don't have much to add but a bold underline and affirmation that I still do everything I did then, and still feel grateful I know how to. I continue, too, to collect bean anecdote and trivia, feeling every time I do like I am collecting information about my roots, though they are not Tuscan or anthropological or agricultural, but human, and as far as I can tell, humans are meant to eat beans."

Here's an excerpt, from the chapter entitled, "How to Live Well:"

Tuscans, though, make the best beans.  They are known in Italy as mangiafagioli, or "bean eaters."  Tuscans believe that frugality is next to godliness and give the humblest ingredients their finest treatment.  Tuscan cooks are extravagant with good olive oil, pressed from dark trees, and with vegetable scraps and Parmesan rinds, which, along with salt and more of that fine oil, make transcendent pots of beans.

Those odds and ends are as crucial to pots of beans as fresh water.  Your pot will benefit from a piece of carrot, whatever is left of a stalk of celery, half an onion or its skin, a clove of garlic, fibrous leek tops.  If you must decide what to save for your chicken pot and what for stock and what for beans, save your fennel scraps with pots of beans in mind.  I make notes to myself after meals, and there are enough torn pieces of paper attesting that "The best bean broth has fennel in it!" for it to have become axiomatic.

Your pot also wants parsley stems, whole sprigs of thyme, and a bay leaf.  It can all be tied into a neat bundle in cheesecloth or with kitchen twine, or it can be left bobbing around, as everything in my bean pot always is.

Beans need salt.  There is a myth that adding salt to beans keeps them crunchy and unlovable.  Not cooking beans for long enough keeps them crunchy, and undersalting them is a leading culprit in their being unlovable.  They also need an immoderate, Tuscan amount of olive oil....

The liquid in a bean pot becomes broth as beans cook in it just as the water in which you boil a piece of meat does.  No ounce of the water that goes into a bean pot should be discarded.  Tuscan food is based as much on the broth made by the beans on which Tuscans lavish their affection as on the beans themselves.  Harold McGee, who writes about the chemistry of food simply, writes that beans make their own sauce.  He is right.  Their sauce must be well made and it must be kept.

Cooking beans is like boiling a chicken or boiling an egg: only their water boils, and only for a brief second.  The rest of their cooking is slow and steady.  Light the burner under your beans, and as soon as the pot has come to a boil, turn the heat down to just below a simmer.  Gray scum will rise to the top of the pot and gather around the edges.  Skin it off and discard it.  

The best instruction I've read for how long to cook beans comes from a collection of recipes called The Best in American Cooking by Clementine Paddleford.  The book instructs to "simmer until beans have gorged themselves with fat and water and swelled like the fat boy in his prime."  The description is so perfectly illustrative I don't think anyone should write another word on the subject.  I don't know who the fat boy is, but I feel I understand his prime perfectly, and it is what I want for my bean.

As they cook, beans should look like they're bathing.  Their tops should stay under the surface of the liquid, or they will get cracked and leathery, and they shouldn't ever be in so much water that they're swimming.  Taste their broth as they cook to make sure it is well seasoned.  It should not taste like the pleasant seawater of the pasta pot, but like a sauce or soup.  

The second good piece of advice from the same book is in one of its recipes for black beans: "Soak beans overnight; drain.  Put in pot, cover with water.  Add onion, celery, carrot, parsley, salt, and pepper.  Simmer until bean skins burst when blown upon, about three hours." This is the only recipe I've ever read that takes the doneness of beans as seriously as it should be taken: a cooked bean is so tender that the mere flutter of your breath should disturb its skin right off.

Beans are done when they are velvety to their absolute middles.  You should feel, as soon as you taste one, as though you want to eat another.  The whole pot is only ready when five beans meet that description.  If one doesn't, let the beans keep cooking....

Cool and store your beans in their broth.  The exchange of goodness between bean and broth will continue as long as the two are left together, and the broth helps the beans stay tender through chilling, freezing, and warming up again.

Those are instructions for cooking all beans.

P.S. If you want more Tamar (and I'm not sure why one wouldn't), check out her column in the New York Times Magazine.


Bean Month, So Far

#Beanmonth is off to an incredible start!  Here are a bunch of posts from the far flung corners of the internet:

In classic style, The Joy of Cooking tells you everything you need to know about Cooking Dried Beans

Russ Parsons stirs up an age-old debate: To Soak or Not To Soak

Phyllis made some Good Old Bean Soup to get her through her last cold over at Dash and Bella

Heidi's recipe for Pan-Fried Giant White Beans with Kale is no-fail via Food52

Julia Nishimura made some insanely beautiful Tuscan Pork and White Beans (a major achievement considering it's a dish not typically known for its beauty)

Adam at Amateur Gourmet lists the Things You Can Do With A Big Pot Of Beans

Elizabeth Minchilli in Rome makes it easy, listing all of her bean recipes for you, here

Learn how to turn one pot of beans into five meals from the Canal House ladies via Food52

Learn about Leather Britches from Sean Brock on Food Republic

Food52 also tells you The Best Ways to Use Canned Beans

How to Cook Beans in the Oven at The Kitchn

Learn how to can your own beans from Punk Domestics

Make feijoada, like the good folks at Good Eggs NYC

Kim O'Donnel shares a recipe for Black Bean Sweet Potato Chili

Heidi's recipe for a beautiful Ayocote Bean and Mushroom Salad

Sarah posted her take on Melissa Clark's Beans Braised with Bacon and Red Wine

Judy Witts Francini shares the ribollita recipe from Trattoria Mario, one of my favorite lunch spots in Florence

Olivia at The Coast Kitchen shares her recipe for Lemon Lentil Soup

And, right here: 
Cal Peternell's Fagioli all'Amatriciana
Mary Oliver's Beans
Cooking (beans) with Italian Grandmothers
Bean Resources

Instagram Photos
@sansculottes made these beautiful beans all'Amatriciana

@andreagentl did right by these beautiful chestnut beans with this moody photo, then she turned them into soup

@dominicarice's corona beans with pork adobo

@fieldsofplenty's beautiful pozole with black-eyed peas and smoked brisket

@juliaostro's Tuscan pork and Beans

@danalouisevelden's La Chamba bean pot took the internet by storm

@tifamade cooked up some mung beans

@claraygray turned these black badger beans into curry

@heyk8 cooked dried beans for the first time!

@goodeggsnyc turned these black beans into an occasion for tacos

@dashandbella went above and beyond with this navy bean gratin baked with bacon and bread crumbs

@melinahammer's lentils with watermelon radish and avocado sure brighten things up!

Post your own photos with the #beanmonth hashtag so I can see and repost them!

Spotify Playlist


The Best Bean Cookbooks, According to Omnivore

Heirloom Bean Sources:
Rancho Gordo
Rancho Llano Seco
Good Eggs: SF, NYC, NOLA, LA
Jalama Valley
CUESA: Tierra Vegetables, Lonely Mountain Farm, Dirty Girl Produce, and Iacopi Farms

(Know of any other great sources for heirloom beans?  Let me know and I'll add them to the list!  And keep posting with the tag!  I'll do another round-up next week!)


Recipe: Cal Peternell's Fagioli all'Amatriciana

Cal Peternell is one of my mentors and dearest friends.  Eating dinner once or twice a week at his house over the years has been as invaluable to my education as a cook--and as a human--as working in any kitchen.  His beautiful new book, Twelve Recipes, is my favorite kind of cookbook--one that guides, inspires, and delights at the same time.  Much like Cal himself.  

This is Cal's recipe for Amatriciana, combined with beans by the inimitable Michelle Fuerst.  Both are accomplished cooks, and great friends.   If you like, serve the sauce with spaghetti or bucatini instead.  

Fagioli all'Amatriciana by Michelle Fuerst
Fagioli all'Amatriciana
adapted from Twelve Recipes 

1 yellow onion, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 pound sliced bacon, cut across into short sticks, or pancetta, or most authentically, guanciale
2 garlic cloves, sliced
Crushed red pepper flakes
1 15-ounce can peeled whole tomatoes, chopped, juice reserved separately
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
4 cups cooked white beans, drained, cooking liquid reserved separately
Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese

Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add the oil and the onion.  Cook over until tender and golden brown, then add the bacon.  Cook until the bacon starts to brown around the edges, less than 5 minutes.  If there's too much fat in the pan, take some out, but save it.  Add the garlic and the pepper flakes, cook for just a moment, and add the tomatoes.

Raise the heat and bring to a simmer.  As the skillet gets to looking (and sounding) too dry and sizzly, add doses of the reserved tomato juice.  Let it all cook down for several minutes, until the tinny taste of the tomatoes has cooked off.

Add the beans to the skillet, and stir.  Bring everything back to a simmer.  Taste and adjust for salt and spiciness.  If it's too thick, add some of the reserved cooking liquid.  Taste and adjust seasoning a final time, then garnish with parsley and grated cheese.

Serve with crusty toasts, poached eggs, or roasted pork or chicken.  Or, just eat straight out of the pan.

Serves 6-8 people


The Best Bean Cookbooks, According to Omnivore

I asked my friends at my favorite bookstore, Omnivore Books, for some bean book recommendations, and here's what they suggested:



Clockwise, from top left:
Heirloom Beans by Steve Sando and Vanessa Barrington
Bean by Bean by Crescent Dragonwagon
Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson
Twelve Recipes by Cal Peternell
The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters
Super Natural Every Day by Heidi Swanson

Other Books Omnivore Carries That I Highly Recommend for #beanmonth, and Life in General:


Clockwise, from top left: 
Heritage by Sean Brock
The Inspired Vegan by Bryant Terry
An Everlasting Meal by Tamar Adler
Gran Cocina Latina: The Food of Latin America by Maricel E. Presilla
The Vegetarian Flavor Bible by Karen Page
The Cooking of Southwest France by Paula Wolfert

Omnivore has loads of these books, signed copies, and rare and antiquarian cookbooks and will ship anywhere in the world.  To purchase, call the store between the hours of 11am and 6pm, Tuesday-Saturday, 12pm-5pm Sunday at 415.282.4712.

p.s. I am purposely refraining from linking to Amazon in this post, so if you don't want to support Omnivore, then go support your own local brick & mortar independent bookstore this time!


"Beans" by Mary Oliver



They’re not like peaches or squash.
Plumpness isn’t for them.They like
being lean, as if for the narrow
path. The beans themselves sit qui-
etly inside their green pods. In-
stinctively one picks with care,
never tearing down the fine vine,
never not noticing their crisp bod-
ies, or feeling their willingness for
the pot, for the fire.

I have thought sometimes that
something―I can’t name it―
watches as I walk the rows, accept-
ing the gift of their lives to assist

I know what you think: this is fool-
ishness. They’re only vegetables.
Even the blossoms with which they
begin are small and pale, hardly sig-
nificant. Our hands, or minds, our
feet hold more intelligence. With
this I have no quarrel.

But, what about virtue?

--Mary Oliver