Simple, yet sensational.
This is one of my favorite tricks: how to use a simple slow cooker and the easiest recipe imaginable to make almost any type of bean incredibly delicious, super-easy to adapt, and really, really cheap. A lot of people think 50-99 cents for a can of beans is a good price, but if you have a slow cooker or a pressure cooker, you can make them much cheaper - and much better - at home.
Basically, almost any kind of bean in any old slow cooker will work with a ratio of one pound of dried beans to one quart of water. Add 2 bay leaves and a tablespoon of salt, and six hours of cooking-time later, you're in business. (This also works for lentils and green or yellow split peas, though the cooking times are much shorter.) What you end up with is a super-flavorful bean by itself, but it's also a readily adaptable base for chili, tacos, salads, curries and more.
Here's an example with a slight variation for incredible curry flavor, but still preppable within two minutes. While you're waiting for them to cook, sauté up some kale or another dark leafy green (collards, spinach, watercress, whatever), make a pot of rice, and you've got a complete and ultra-healthy meal. Once your beans are done in the slow cooker, take out your stopwatch and time how quickly you can assemble this Indian-spiced chickpea dish.
1 lb. dried chickpeas (garbanzo beans) ($1.99)
1 quart water
4 cups dry rice, preferably basmati ($1.60)
2 bunches of kale ($1.98)
1 bunch cilantro, royal basil or mint (optional)
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon each of salt, whole cumin, black caraway, ajwan seed, fennel seed
1 anise star (total cost: $.50)
1. Place chickpeas, water, and all seasoning in slow cooker. Turn on low and cook for 4 hours.
2. At four hours, check: if chickpeas are soft but a little al dente, it's finished; if they need more time, check every hour until they have the desired consistency.
3. When the chickpeas are fully cooked, if there is too much residual water, pulse with a hand blender to absorb the liquid.
4. Serve over rice, and with sautéed kale either on the side or mixed in.
5. Sprinkle with minced fresh herbs (optional).
-By Jack Murnighan
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