Slow Cooked Beans
I've tried recipes from the food sections of many newspapers over the years, and sadly I've been disappointed more often than not. But the New York Times is a newspaper that rarely disappoints. Their recipes are interesting, creative, and most importantly, delicious. Last August, I read a NYT article by Samin Nosrat, who first learned about the process of slow cooking vegetables while working as an apprentice at a restaurant outside of Florence. I was intrigued by her slow cooked beans recipe for a number of reasons. First because I tend to just barely cook through my vegetables, so the idea of cooking a pot of vegetables for hours was entirely new to me. And second because the only green beans I ever ate as a child came from the frozen food section, which may explain why I don't serve them for dinner very often.
Nevertheless, whenever I see an interesting variety of green beans at the store, I usually try them out. For example, every fall when the beautiful Romano beans arrive at the store, I buy a pound but am always met with disappointment. Afterwards, I'll think to myself, I'm just not cooking them long enough... maybe 10 more minutes will soften them up. It wasn't until I read Ms. Nosrat's article that I truly realized how far off I was. To properly cook beans requires at least 2-3 hours. They become ugly in the process, but more importantly they become velvety, rich, and deeply flavorful (the olive oil, anchovies and garlic help). I have slow cooked every variety of green beans I have found at farmers' markets and at the grocery store: Romano beans, pole beans, Kentucky wonder beans... and I'm happy to say that I've loved them all.
Slow Cooked Beans
Adapted from a New York Times Recipe by Samin Nosrat
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
6-8 garlic cloves
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1-2 shallots sliced (or substitute with ½ large onion)
3 oil packed anchovies (preferably jarred)
2 pounds beans, i.e. Romano, Kentucky Wonder, or pole beans (stem end trimmed). (I've even used ordinary green beans. They're not as spectacular, but still very good.)(However DO NOT use shell beans as the shells are not edible)
~5 tablespoons water - more may be needed
½ teaspoon kosher salt
In a heavy pot over low to medium heat, add olive oil, garlic (whole, peeled), pepper flakes, shallot or onion, and anchovies (don't omit! They add amazing flavor). Stir often, until slightly softened but not yet brown. Add the beans, 2 tablespoons water, and the salt. Cover, turn the heat to very low and cook for about 2-2½ hours, stirring them approximately every 15 minutes and adding more water as needed (~1 tablespoon every 30-45 minutes, when the water evaporates). Don't wander too far; the beans and garlic can burn if the water evaporates and the beans continue to cook. Once the beans are buttery and tender, and the garlic has melted down, uncover the pot and turn up the heat in order to evaporate any remaining water (this should brown the beans as well). Add more salt if needed. I think they are wonderful as is, but a squeeze of lemon juice may be desirable if you are using ordinary green beans.