Beans are money in the bank for the weeknight cook. Simmer a big batch and you'll have the main ingredient for three quick, delicious dinners.
To make all three of these recipes, start with 1 1/2 pounds (3 1/2 cups) dried pinto, kidney, or cranberry beans, which yield about 8 1/2 cups cooked beans plus 8 cups liquid. Then follow these simple steps.
Cover beans with 4 inches of water, and refrigerate overnight. (Or quick-soak them: Boil them 1 minute, then let them sit off heat, covered, for 1 hour.) There is no need to drain off the soaking liquid.
Add aromatics such as carrots, celery, garlic, onions, and sprigs of sage to the pot. If your crisper is bare, a few garlic cloves and a bay leaf will suffice.
Add more water, if necessary, to cover by 3 inches; pour in a splash of olive oil. Bring to a boil. Stir, reduce heat, and simmer, partially covered and stirring occasionally, until almost tender, 30 to 45 minutes. Add 4 teaspoons coarse salt, and cook until beans are very tender but not falling apart, about 30 minutes more.
Let beans cool in their liquid, then remove aromatics. Refrigerate in liquid up to 5 days, or freeze up to 6 months.
Get a Head Start
Tonight's beans will taste even better tomorrow. They become more flavorful as they sit in their cooking liquid in the refrigerator.
Imbue beans with Mexican flavor by adding cumin seeds, a cinnamon stick, and dried whole chiles before simmering them.
You can also simmer beans in a slow cooker after soaking them and adding aromatics.