Bring on the beans

Green beans can be delicious, and it’s hard to find anyone that doesn’t enjoy them cooked like Grandma used to. However, there is nothing wrong with stepping out of that comfort zone and trying other ways.
Don’t shy away from other beans. And if you don’t like beans, or think you don’t, it may mean you haven’t found the right bean cooked the right way. There’s a bean out there with your name on it.
Feel free to tweak these recipes any way you like. If you can improve upon them please e-mail your version and I’ll let readers know. Thanks for the feedback.

Cajun Skillet Beans

1 medum onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
3 celery stalks, chopped
2 green or red bell peppers
1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil
1 tsp. chopped fresh oregano
1/4 tsp ground black pepper (or to taste)
pinch each of cayenne & salt
2 cups chopped fresh or canned tomatoes
1 Tbsp. honey or molasses
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
4 cups black-eyed peas or butter beans
chopped scallions (optional)
grated cheddar cheese (optional)

In a heavy saucepan or skillet, sauté the onions and garlic in the oil on medium heat.
Chop the celery and bell peppers, and add them to the pan. Continue to sauté for about five minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the thyme, basil, oregano, black pepper, cayenne, and salt. Cover and cook for five minutes or until the onions are golden, stirring once or twice.
Add the tomatoes, honey or molasses, and mustard, and simmer for five more minutes. Add the beans, cover, and stir occasionally until thoroughly heated. Canned beans will be hot in less than 10 minutes, but frozen beans need to simmer for 15-20 minutes.

Three-Bean Salad
1 can (15 to 16 ounces) cut green beans, drained
1 can (15 to 16 ounces) cut yellow beans, drained
1 can (about 16 ounces) red kidney beans, drained
1 small can baby lima beans
1/4 cup green bell pepper
1/2 cup sweet red pepper
1 cup sliced sweet onion
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
½ tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. celery seed

Rinse beans; drain. Combine beans, green and red pepper, and sliced onion. whisk together remaining ingredients; pour over bean mixture. Toss three bean salad well and chill for at least four hours. Store three bean salad in refrigerator.

Black-Eyed Pea and Roasted Pepper Soup
1 cup dried black-eyed peas
soaking water
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1-3 hot green chilies (to your taste), seeded, cored, and minced
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large tomato (or 4 small canned ones), peeled, seeded, and chopped
5 cups water
1 large red pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
12 curry leaves (or substitute 1 tablespoon minced cilantro if you can’t find curry leaves)
2 Tablespoons chickpea flour
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon asafoetida (optional)
1 cup water
2 tablespoons tamarind paste

Soak the beans for several hours or overnight in lots of water. Drain and rinse. Put into a heavy pot with the ginger, chilies, tomato, turmeric, salt, and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, seal with aluminum foil, and top with the lid. Let cook for an hour or two.
While the soup is cooking, roast the red pepper under the broiler, turning to char the skin on every side. Place in a plastic bag and let the skin steam off for 5-10 minutes. Remove from the bag, peel away the skin, and reserve.
When ready to finish the soup, unseal the soup pot and check that the beans are tender. Cut the roasted pepper into cubes and add to the soup. Then heat the oil in a small saucepan over medium high heat. Add the mustard and cumin seeds and cover the pot while they sizzle. Turn the heat to low and stir in the curry leaves (or cilantro), the chickpea flour, the paprika, and the asafoetida. Stir for a minute or two, then whisk in the cup of water and stir
into the rest of the soup. Stir in the tamarind, tasting to get the right amount of sourness. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer for five minutes or more.
Ladle into small bowls and serve immediately.

Red Beans and Rice
1 pound dried red beans, rinsed and sorted over
3 tablespoons bacon grease
1/4 cup chopped tasso, or chopped ham
1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onions
3/4 cup chopped celery
3/4 cup chopped green bell peppers
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch cayenne
3 bay leaves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
1/2 pound smoked sausage, split in half lengthwise and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 pound smoked ham hocks
3 tablespoons chopped garlic
10 cups chicken stock, or water
4 cups cooked white rice
1/4 cup chopped green onions, garnish

Place the beans in a large bowl or pot and cover with water by two inches. Let soak for eight hours or overnight. Drain and set aside.
In a large pot, heat the bacon grease over medium-high heat. Add the tasso and cook, stirring, for one minute. Add the onions, celery and bell peppers to the grease in the pot. Season with the salt, pepper, and cayenne, and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are soft, about four minutes. Add the bay leaves, parsley, thyme, sausage, and ham hocks, and cook, stirring, to brown the sausage and ham hocks, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for one minute. Add the beans and stock or water, stir well, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the beans are tender and starting to thicken, about two hours. (Should the beans become too thick and dry, add more water, about 1/4 cup at a time.)
Remove from the heat and with the back of a heavy spoon, mash about 1/4 of the beans against the side of the pot. Continue to cook until the beans are tender and creamy, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and remove the bay leaves.
Serve over rice and garnish with green onions.