Inspired by conversations on the Food52 Hotline, we're sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun.
Today: Those cans of beans in the back of your pantry? Here are the ways they can save dinner (or lunch, or breakfast).
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Let’s all agree that using dried beans, not the precooked kind, will result in the most pleasant taste and texture. And when trying to impress family or a legume-loving friend, it’s best to take the time to soak and boil.
But that doesn't mean you should throw away your cans of kidneys, pintos, and cannellinis; precooked beans are still a convenient and powerful ingredient to have on hand, whether you need to thicken up a pot of soup or spruce up a bland salad. So for a moment, put the dried beans aside and open up the potential of canned beans.
When shopping, choose canned or boxed brands with a BPA-free lining to avoid tinny tastes and chemicals. The healthiest and most versatile options will be those with the least ingredients; all you really need is beans and water. Skip the seasoned products and add your own flavors at home, or at least give them a good rinse to drain up to 30 to 40% of the sodium content. And, if you're keeping vegetarian, keep a lookout for mention of animal fat on the label.
Beyond the Pot
There’s nothing wrong with a hearty pot of chili. But beans can do a lot more than stew. Like rice and canned fish, they can whip up last-minute meals or make up for missing ingredients in a flash. And if when find yourself in a food pinch, you’ll be happy to have this culinary secret weapon in your cupboard or desk drawer.
When short on texture: Top salads and stews with toasted chickpeas or thicken up watery minestrones and casseroles with a cup of blended white beans.
When short on ingredients: Add to simple pastas, bolognese sauces, meatballs, and burgers for bulk.
When short on sides: Mix leftover drippings from the sauté or oven pan with a pot of pintos, kidneys, or cannelini beans for a simple compliment to the main dish. Or throw leftovers beans back on the flame for these genius refried beans.
When short on dry beans: Remember that a 15-ounce can of beans will replace 1 1/2 cups of cooked, dried beans.
When short on ideas: Use for bicep curls, paperweights, or additions to emergency kits.
What are your favorite ways to use canned beans? Let us know in the comments!
Photos by James Ransom
A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).
In January of 2004, I received a diagnosis that changed my life. I was diagnosed with Lupus, an autoimmune disease that in my case attacked my kidneys and brain. Due to the intensity of the initial “flare up” of the disease, I became renal insufficient and eventually faced kidney failure. Amazingly, through great medicine, wonderful family and friends, and an enormous amount of support, I became stronger and healthier and miraculously, my kidneys partially regenerated. I no longer depend on dialysis and by regulating my diet, I depend on fewer medications. Five years later, I work part time and live a full and utterly enjoyable life. My dietary restrictions have transformed into a real passion for food and I hope to be able to pass along my favorite finds to others facing similar dietary challenges. Be creative, be friendly, and be full!