Tuesday, August 18, 2009

the perfect bean: a journey

When it comes to burritos, I always get pinto. (You know, they always ask "black or pinto?" unless they haughtily assume you want black and don't ask). I like pinto beans. Black beans would be like invaders.

Except, there are things in which I think black beans are perfect. For example, something I have made increasingly often this summer is a black bean salad. It contains: 2-3 chopped tomatoes, a can of black beans (or 1 1/4 cup cooked black beans), 2-3 ears of corn (raw & fresh!, with the corn cut off the ear), a chopped avocado, and lots of chopped cilantro (like half cup of leaves maybe?). Reija was my inspiration on this recipe. She made a version of it for the dinner at which we met her beaux, Bob, this past summer. (And now she is engaged, how wonderful is that!)

I have all the sudden remembered I have two ears of corn in the fridge. Anyway. Back to beans. So, I decided that though 89 cents for a can of black beans is not highway robbery, much of the time I don't have a can of beans (alas, poor planning). This means I have to go to the "charming" but expensive corner store to get beans, and they charge 50 cents more for a can. So I decided my dependence on canned beans must end.

(As a side note, another reason for having black beans is because eventually I want to try to make this flourless chocolate cake that uses black beans.)

Attempt 1. Method: Soak all day, then boil.

This did not go well. The soaking went fine and I rinsed the beans afterward. Next, I boiled the beans. It took more than 2 hours of boiling for the beans to be fully cooked. They did not hold shape well either and were falling apart. This would be ok for a pureed dip, or inside a burrito (someone else's burrito perhaps), but NOT in a salad. Alas.

Attempt 2. Method: Overnight soak, then pressure cook.

See the pressure cooker. I just bought it last week. Before today, I had NEVER used a pressure cooker. (And didn't know how to use one either!)

Ok. After spending hours trying to figure out the directions (which were insufficient, and thus I turned to the web and youtube), I finally began my first use of the pressure cooker. In retrospect, I can say that I did not have the heat turned up high enough to build pressure up all the way. (The giant toggle thing in the center of the lid is supposed to shake around at the correct pressure, but there was steam coming out near the handle so I was confused!). Thus the beans weren't fully cooked after 10 minutes. (10 minutes, by the way, is what the pressure cooker directions say is necessary to cook soaked black beans. Only 10 minutes! Not 2 hours!). So I tried again, and this time waited longer, on the edge of my seat, and the pressure built up correctly. There is a little pin that pops up near the handle when it reaches pressure, I discovered. I think that also locks the lid in place so you can't open it until the pressure goes down.

So. After cooking (at correct pressure) 5 more minutes, the beans were cooked, but falling apart. The directions said for the beans to stay in tact, I should let pressure fall naturally (which is what I did) and not manually release the steam. This is what it looked like (below):

I think I added way too much water.

And this is how it looks strained and rinsed (below). The pressure cook method worked better than boiling, for sure. But I think if I'd used the pressure cooker correctly it would have turned out better. Next time, hopefully it will be perfect! (Must add salt next time too.)

P.S. There is one thing I can't figure out about my pressure cooker. There is a backup safety valve on the lid (the small attachment shown to the left on the lid in the picture). It screws on and off. Is it supposed to be screwed on tightly (or loosely)? The directions do not say...and I know not. Anyone know?


j le ^2 said...

I love beans. Black beans are second only to garbanzo beans.

I am very, very interested in the cake you linked to. At first I passed it by, as I have not had cake (due to cakes having sugar in them) for a long time. But my bean+cake curiosity prevailed. I returned to the mention of the cake and clicked. AND BEHOLD, not only is it beany, it is sugarless. Awesome.

MommaMcCarthy said...

am sooooo jealous of the pressure cooker. REALLY want one. really. if you're interested, i have a coupla recipes i want to try. (once i get one)

LRH said...

I got my pressure cooker at kmart for $22 I think. And I would LOVE recipes! I tried to make rice pudding in it and it sortof bombed. But that will not stop me!

Anonymous said...

Your pressure cooker was made in China. Any self respecting pressure cooker has a fully recessed emergency pressure valve.

Anonymous said...

Try black beans and Kippered herring in lemon and pepper sauce. If you think going in is bad...I think most tropical class V hurricains are a side effect of a lost group of herrings going belly up all at once.

There is only one redline this...whoops two....this time. I need a weekly reader...2nd grade level.

So long, and thanks for all the fish.