06 June 2011

Cooking Beans, the Long Way

Beans and rice is a standard dish of mine. It takes about 30 minutes, I don't have to do any work, and I can throw whatever veggies I happen to have lying around on top of it and get something, if not delicious, at least enjoyable. But, just for the hell of it, I decided to make a 30 minute dish into a 3+ hour dish. The trick? Beans not-from-a-can, but rather from a bag. Some of the best (plain) beans I've ever had, in fact. And to add to the adventure, the vegetable of choice was nopales (otherwise known as cactus).
I followed the directions of the nice people who sold the beans for cooking - soaking optional, simmer for 2-3 hours, salt at the very end. I used a shallot for seasoning, although it mostly dissolved after three hours in a pot of simmering water. The beans, magically, survived. Nopales is also fun to cook; I've had it many times before so I knew the flavor was going to be good - something like a green pepper or okra. Apparently, they also produce a very gooey, glue-like liquid when you cook them. It isn't as bad as okra, but it sure was a surprise. Wikipedia, of course, knew all about this and didn't even try and warn me; now it just taunts me with big words like "mucilaginous" and the knowledge that, in the olden days, marshmallows were actually made from marshmallows (and sugar, too).
A note on the beans - they really were worth the extra time. They were much smoother, and had hints of nuts or chocolate in the flavor. Hell, they had a flavor - besides a dash of salt and the (mostly tasteless) shallot, I didn't do anything to them. Much more satisfying than yet-another can of {pinto, black, kidney, white, garbanzo} beans and, if you care about these things, quite a bit cheaper (even though I got the heirloom rustic pampered and massaged beans).
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Rice, Beans, and Nopales
(3+ hours - save this one for a Sunday)
some amount dry beans (I used Good Mother Stallard which you really should buy)
1 nopale
1 shallot, lazily diced
some amount rice
olive oil handy

To prepare the beans, lightly rinse the beans. In a pot, add some olive oil and brown the shallots. Add beans in, and add enough water to get about an inch above the beans. Bring the water to a boil, reduce heat to the lowest simmer you can manage, and cover. Let cook for two, three, or even four hours - until the beans get soft. You may need to add in water every so often; make sure to bring it back to a boil and then simmer again if doing so. It may be easier to pre-boil the water you wish to add in a tea kettle.
Once the beans get soft and have lost their wonderful speckled color, add in a little salt and shut off heat. To cook nopales, cut it into strips (and hopefully the thorns have been removed, but if not do so yourself somehow). In a small pan, add some olive oil and cook over medium until they change color to a pale green instead of a bright green. Season however you wish (I used a pinch of cinnamon and some crushed pepper).

Cook the rice, put a good amount in a bowl with some beans and the nopales, and eat it.

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