Garlic! Preferably fresh and coarsely chopped but dried can work too. Diced and sauteed onions are also a good addition. Once your beans are completely cooked you can add a little salt (don't over salt them - you can always add more later if you need to), but don't add the salt before they are finished cooking because that can prevent them from getting done.
I always throw a couple of bay leaves in my beans during cooking; they can be subtle, but I find that they very much deepen the flavor of beans. I've also found to that a fast way to rescue fully cooked black beans is to add in a little roasted salsa or, if you have more time, roasted chiles and onions.
I might take a saute pan and saute up a couple diced onions, add 4 cloves of garlic after the onions have softened, fresh bay leaves if you have them are wonderful. When all is fragrant, grind in some pepper, add salt and dried herbs or spices that you are using (oregano? chili? cumin?) while still hot, give a stir and remove from heat. Scrape the whole into the beans and simmer. You might add canned or fresh tomatoes or paste to perk up the flavor. The acid in the tomatoes will help.
I would saute the above in olive oil. Make sure you've added adequate salt to the beans.
pierino is a trusted source on General Cooking and Tough Love.
Salt, yes. Possibly bacon. But my secret ingredient for cooking beans is a half cup of strong black coffee. Nobody will know what that flavor is except you.
Pierino, do you add black coffee to all beans or just certain ones? Thanks!
I first learned to use this technique with red beans and rice and moved on to other bean dishes like chili. I keep experimenting. It adds this dark, mysterious flavor in the background that's unrecognizable as coffee in the finished dish. I wouldn't use it with white beans or lentils though.
Thanks everyone for the help!
I have jazzed them up a bit with onions, tomatoes and some bacon, but they're still lacking oomph. I think I might need some acid in there, maybe a splash of red wine vinegar. Will report back.
Acid was going to be my answer. Depending what type of beans and what other seasonings, both vinegar or lemon juice would work. Add a bit at a time because you can't take it out!
I always add some diced onion to the pot when I cook beans, but my real secret ingredient is about 1 tablespoon good-quality lard (if lard is unavailable, you can use veg oil). The lard gives the beans a delicious, velvety richness.
June is a trusted source on General Cooking.
cookinginvictoria: do you saute your mirepoix in the lard?
depends upon what you added (or didn't add) to this particular pot!
I generally don't salt beans until the last 20 minutes of cooking, because I've found salting early in the cooking process keeps some varieties from softening. So, if I forget to add the salt, the beans can be bland.. Did you salt them? I always add dry mustard, dried herbes de Provence and a dried bay leaf or two to the bean pot. and pepper. white and black, and a generous dash of Louisiana Hot Sauce (a house staple).
AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.
I do just about all of the above, but my favorite trick is to add a couple teaspoons of fish sauce and at least one teaspoon of molasses, no matter what the flavor profile. They are both wonderful flavor boosters, but they must be used together, for some reason, to work properly. Don't add it until after the beans have softened. I use this combination in many other kinds of soups and stews, too, by the way. For non-S.E. Asian dishes, the combination generally works best where you have two or three different herbs, generous aromatics and/or a good rich stock. ;o)
Been following this thread with interest and love it. One possibility is your dried beans are old. Are you buying them in bulk where there is a turnover, or buying them pre-packaged?
OP here reporting on beans. Here's what took them over the top- lemon juice! I squeezed half a lemon in there and they were amazing! Best pot of beans ever!
Dried mustard and molasses are my favorite additions; if doing classic New "England baked beans with pintos or similar beans, I like to put in a 2-3 inch cube of salt pork during the cooking, too. Taste before serving and whatever type of beans you are cooking, add a squirt of lemon juice (as per JosieD) or vinegar to make the flavors sing. Ascender's advice is right on... add judiciously and taste as you go. Love cookinginvictoria's addition of lard.
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