All the Great Recipes in The Joy Of Cooking and You’re Making…Kidney Bean Casserole?
This post’s title is, quite literally, what the voice inside my head was saying to me as I started dinner preparations Sunday night.
I love The Joy Of Cooking. I’ve made all kinds of fabulous recipes from that book, and consider it one of my cooking encyclopedias.
But I’m trying to get back to the heart of this project: cost-effective, easy, healthy meals that are frequently vegetarian. And so I happened upon this recipe for Kidney Bean Casserole, which seemed like just the ticket.
Remember what I said about lentils, and how I buy them in bags because they’re cheap, healthy and filling?
Well, take that philosophy and triple it. You now have an inkling of how many bags of dried beans are in my pantry.
I’m pretty sure the last time I actually cooked with dried beans was several months ago when we decided to finish off a container of bean soup mix that we later realized had been traveling around with us since we lived in Ohio previously. (That was more than 10 years ago).
What I learned from that experience: there does, indeed, come a point when the beans are old enough that they simply will not cook.
But in the meantime, I was still buying bags of dried beans. And letting them sit on shelves in the pantry.
This particular recipe, like many, simply calls for cooked beans. That gives you an easy way out, should you just want to open up a can. But it was Sunday afternoon, football on the TV, and no plans to go anywhere at all. So I took the plunge and broke open a bag of dried beans. Luckily, I think this batch had only been in my possession for about a year.
Another favorite cookbook is Mark Bittman’s How To Cook Everything. (Much more to come on Mr. Bittman when I “officially” get to his book in the line-up.) So I followed along with his tips on cooking beans, which go a little something like this:
- While soaking the beans does speed up the cooking time a bit, it’s not necessary (and can certainly be accomplished with the quick-soak method, below)
- Quick soak: put the beans in a large pot with about 12 cups of water per pound of beans. Bring to a boil, and boil for 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and let soak for an hour or two. Drain, rinse, and you’re ready to cook.
- Rinse out your pot, and put the beans back in it. Cover them with water, but don’t use too much – you can always add more later if you need it.
- Bring the beans to a boil, turn the heat down so they’re just simmering, and LOOSELY cover them. (If you use a tight-fitting lid, chances are your bean juice will explode all over your stove top, as mine did.) Cook until tender, stirring occasionally.
- Cooking time will vary greatly based on the type and freshness of the bean, so just keep testing, and add more water if you need it. My kidney beans cooked in about 75 minutes.
Cooking dried beans actually gives you a serious dose of freedom. You can achieve the texture and sodium level you prefer. Canned beans, while convenient (and still a staple on my shelves), pretty much come in only one texture – very, very soft.
Also, why not cook double the amount needed for a recipe? I was really excited to learn that cooked beans freeze well in a little of their own liquid. So I figured if I was going to all the trouble anyway, might as well make some extra to use for chili or something later.
The Cookbook: The Joy Of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker and Ethan Becker
The Recipe: Kidney Bean Casserole
Other Menu Items: Hearts of Romaine Salad with Pomegranate Seeds, Dried Cranberries, Toasted Walnuts and Sweet Onion; Whole Wheat Bread & Butter
(A couple of notes on this salad, which I made up with ingredients on hand – I often buy hearts of romaine even though they’re a little more expensive because they seem to last longer in my fridge than regular lettuce. And I am, officially, addicted to pomegranates and plan to eat as many of them as I can while they’re in season. Though I do need to branch out and try something OTHER than a salad.)
Cooking It Up:
Beans already cooked…ready to go!
Kidney Bean Casserole:
Heat 2 TB vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add 1 cup chopped onion and cook for about 10 minutes. Add 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped, and cook until the vegetables are tender, 2 to 5 minutes longer. Add 2 tsp (or more) chili powder and cook for another minute or so, to give the spice a chance to mix with the oil and vegetables.
Add 4 cups cooked kidney beans, one 28 oz can whole tomatoes (drained and coarsely chopped), 3/4 tsp salt (less if you’re using canned beans) and 1/2 tsp black pepper.
Cook for a few minutes until nice and bubbly.
Place half of the bean mixture in a 2-qt casserole. Sprinkle with 1/3 cup grated cheddar cheese. Layer in the rest of the bean mixture, and top with another 1/3 cup grated cheddar.
Bake at 350, uncovered, until the cheese is melted and starting to brown, about 30 minutes.
Well, folks, it wasn’t necessarily sexy, but it was hearty, tasty and cheesy. And as we ate, we realized that this dish had a lot of variations just waiting to happen. A few of our thoughts:
- Add meat (ground beef or turkey, bacon, shredded chicken)
- Add TVP or mashed up tofu, or sliced veggie dogs
- Take a southwestern twist by adding cumin, cayenne, corn and crushed up tortilla chips. Top with sour cream and green onions.
- Add veggies like zucchini and carrots.
- Mix in some cooked macaroni and oregano.
All in all – a good, cheap, easy basic meal with lots of potential for tailoring to your taste buds. And delish with the pomegranate salad!
Until next time –