Discover more from Family Friend by Lukas Volger
Beans in the Summer
Use your slow cooker! Plus a recipe for Honey'd Tomatoes & Beans on Toast.
Beans may not have a season, but cooking them in the summer always poses a problem for me, and that problem is all the extra heat involved. If you’re also an apartment dweller who has poor ventilation, you’ll relate — as will anyone who isn’t eager to turn their kitchen into an optimal environment for Bikram yoga when such an environment already exists outside.
Canned beans therefore become an even more convenient option, and lots of us (including me) reach for those. But I have an ever-growing collection of very delicious dried beans (as do many of you fellow bean club members), and it seems silly to buy canned ones when I don’t need to.
What’s the solution? For me, I dig out the Instant Pot and use the slow cooker function. I find pressure cooking to be too inconsistent, but with slow cooking I can easily check the progress along the way, and I always get great results in the form of creamy, tender beans and a rich, slurpable broth. I’m sharing my slow-cooker bean method below, but I also have a few extra tips for anyone who doesn’t have one of these appliances.
Try to cook as early in the morning or late at night as possible, so as to not compound the high heat of the day.
Soaked beans will cook faster, so regardless of whether or not you believe this is a worthwhile step (personally, I think it is), cover them with plenty of water in a bowl or pot and leave them to soak at room temperature for 8 to 12 hours.
You can cook beans in a low oven, which is probably preferable the stovetop (my gas stovetop generates a ton of heat). Preheat your oven to 275°F (or up to 375°F if you want to cook them more quickly but produce more heat). Cover soaked-and-drained beans with about an inch of water in an oven-safe pot. Add salt, a few glugs of olive oil, and whatever aromatics you please, then bring to a simmer on your stovetop. Off the heat, cover the pot, and transfer the pot to the oven. Cook until several sample beans are creamy and tender; the timing will vary greatly depending on what kind of bean you use, but start checking after 90 minutes.
And while you’re at it, cook extra beans to stash away for the week — so that you don’t have to do it again anytime soon!
I’m sure you all have tricks, too — and I’d love to hear them in the comments.
Slow Cooker Beans
Yield Makes 1 quart | Prep & cook time Several inactive hours
8 ounces (1 cup) dried beans, soaked for 8 to 12 hours in plenty of water
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ white or yellow onion
5 garlic cloves, unpeeled
2 bay leaves
1. Drain the beans of their soaking water, then add to the bowl of a slow cooker or instant pot. Cover with fresh water by about ½ inch. Add the olive oil, onion, garlic, bay leaves, and about 2 teaspoons salt (or to taste). Insert into your machine and set to slow cook for 4 hours.
2. The timing will vary a lot based on what type of bean you’re cooking, but try to check the doneness at 3 hours, and then continue cooking as needed until several sample beans are tender, adding additional cooking time as needed. Allow to cool, then pick out the onion, garlic, and bay leaves (all delicious!) and store the beans in their broth in airtight containers for up to 5 days in the refrigerator.
Honey’d Tomatoes and Beans on Toast
Last summer I started drizzling my tomato toasts with honey, and I’m never looking back. Honey makes a tomato practically explode with flavor, and it will really elevate a good, early-season tomato — because the great ones are still about 2 weeks off on the East coast where I live.
A creamy white bean (in the photo are famed Marcella beans) is my favorite on this toast, but use what you’ve got. I’ve also made it with pintos and kidney beans, both great. And canned will be fine — though home-cooked will be better!
If good, ripe tomatoes aren’t yet available, use halved cherry tomatoes.
Yield Serves 4 | Prep & cook time About 10 minutes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup chopped or halved ripe, juicy summer tomatoes (1 medium-large one)
1 ½ teaspoons runny honey
Fine sea salt
1 cup cooked beans, any variety you like
4 thick slices good-quality bread
1 clove garlic, cut in half
About ½ cup labneh, ricotta, or cream cheese
A few fresh basil or mint leaves, torn or thinly sliced, or a few pinches of dried thyme
Freshly ground black pepper
1. Warm a skillet over medium-low heat, and when hot, swirl in the oil. Add the tomatoes, honey, and a big pinch of salt. Cook the tomatoes gently, just until they soften slightly, the skins begin to shrivel at the edges, and they start releasing their liquid, 2 to 4 minutes. Then add the beans. Once the liquid in the pan (it will continue to collect, as the salt draws out the moisture of the tomatoes) returns to a simmer, turn off the heat.
2. While that cools slightly, toast your bread until browned and well crisped. Right out of the toaster, rub once side of each piece with the cut side of the garlic clove. Smear with the labneh or other creamy topping of choice, then divide the beans and tomatoes — and their juices — on top. Garnish with the herbs, black pepper, and additional salt to taste, and serve immediately, with knife and fork.
Family Friend is a reader-supported publication — this is a free post for all subscribers, but if you wish to receive weekly recipes and roundups, consider becoming a paid subscriber.