Originally published in December 2006, this updated pantry ingredient post features new photos, links, and tweaks to the recipe, which I now like to make meatless. You can add some chicken or sausage for your omnivorous eaters.
By nature and by habit, I am a decanter.
Not the kind with an hourglass figure (don't I wish?) and a cork stopper.
No, I am a person who decants almost everything in my pantry into clear jars so I can see how much of each item I have on hand. I've never been able to divine, just by looking at a box on the shelf, exactly how much sugar, or rice, or bulgur wheat, is left in the box. The smaller jars, mostly one-quart canning size, hold the things I use in smaller quantities: lentils, cocoa powder, arrowroot, table salt for baking. In medium jars, I keep various kinds of rice, and breakfast cereals. The large jars hold the basics: sugars, kosher salt, flours.
My favorite jars are what I call the amalgamators: the jar that holds leftover odds and ends of dry pasta, and the one that gathers dry beans. I only allow like-minded beans — those that cook in approximately the same time, or have the same texture or color — to cohabit. Today, my bean jar contains red kidneys and Anasazi beans, and a few navy beans hiding at the bottom. At other times, it might have cranberry beans, if I'm lucky enough to find them, or pink pintos.
As kids, we were taught (by whom, I can't remember....): Beans, beans, good for your heart/The more you eat, the more you f***/ The more you f***, the better you feel/So eat your beans at every meal.
True? Yes, indeed. Beans are good for your heart — rich in dietary fiber, potassium, folate and iron, as well as complex carbs and protein.
It's also true that there are well-known consequences to eating beans at every meal. Beans contain enzymes that produce flatulence and, while it's said that the more often you eat beans, the more your body acclimates to the enzyme, it's an indisputable truth that the gas will escape from your body from time to time.
You can mitigate the gas by changing the soaking or cooking water occasionally. Pouring off the water helps gets rid of the indigestible complex sugars that create gas in your intestine. And there's always Beano, for those who'd rather fight one enzyme with another.
And if, like I do from time to time, you find some really old dry beans languishing at the rear of the pantry shelf, give them a second chance — they make fabulous pie weights.
Everything-from-the-pantry bean soup
Serves 12, at least.
15 oz dried beans, a mix of red kidney, Great Northern, navy, Anasazi, or whatever's in your bean jar
3 quarts water
1/4 cup smoky barbecue sauce
1 bay leaf
1 Tbsp oregano
1/2 Tbsp thyme
28-oz can whole pear tomatoes, drained, seeded and roughly chopped
2 cups chopped onion
2 cups chopped celery
1 clove garlic, minced
Tabasco or other hot sauce, to taste
Black pepper, to taste
Wash and pick over beans, and soak in water to cover for at least 2 hours or overnight. Drain. Place in a large stockpot, and add 3 quarts of water, barbeque sauce, bay leaf, oregano and thyme. Simmer, covered, for 2-1/2 hours.
Add tomato, onion, celery, garlic, Tabasco and pepper, and simmer, partially covered, for 2 hours, or until the beans begin to fall apart.
Serve hot, or allow to cool completely, and freeze in airtight containers.
Other recipes that use these pantry ingredients:
Cowgirl beans, from Never Enough Thyme
Thick and hearty pinto bean chili, from FatFree Vegan Kitchen
Pinto bean chicken chili, from Ambitious Kitchen
Red kidney bean curry, from Smitten Kitchen
Slow cooker chili with pinto beans and sausage, from 365 Days of Slow Cooking
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