Beans. They are truly wonderful leftovers to have around. Cook up a pot at the beginning of the week, freeze half for later, and you have fodder for a variety of meals. Most grocery stores have a nice range of dried beans available, or you can visit any ethnic markets in your area to find more. Some of my staples are black beans, chick peas, navy beans, gigantes, split peas, and all sorts of lentils. Pinto, kidney, pink, small red, cranberry, and lima beans are just a few more commonly available options. Just like with grains, you’ll always want to be sure the seasonings from the initial run meld nicely with the next iteration. If I intend to make several dishes from the original pot, I generally cook them in plain water or maybe with a little bay, a couple of dried mushrooms, or garlic.
To learn more about why you should eat more beans, besides the fact that they are affordable and delicious, click here.
What can I do with leftover beans? A lot!
Soup (aka stew). Add vegetables, seasonings, and a little meat if you feel it is needed. A simple starting point is cooking a diced onion and smashed garlic in olive oil, followed by broth, beans, a dried mushroom or two, and diced carrot. Top it off with some greens, other vegetables, and any herbs you like. Add an acid like tomato sauce, vinegar, or lemon juice. Top with a little cheese or something crunchy like toasted nuts or croutons to dress it up. Adapt the seasoning to the original use of the beans– something like black beans cooked with cumin and chili would be flattered by sweet potatoes instead of carrot and lime instead of lemon.
Salad. Again, take a vinaigrette and toss with any grains, vegetables, herbs/spices that appeal. Let the beans sit for several hours or overnight in the dressing before you add any addition ingredients if you have the time. They will absorb it, and taste great. You can speed this process by heating the beans before dressing them.
Refried. Think the technique, not the flavors. Cook beans in fat with seasonings, mashing slightly. So, try something like chickpeas with cumin and lemon. Or try gigantes with oregano, garlic, and a little thyme.
Puree. Basically, you’re making a dip or spread. The most basic would start with cooked beans and add cooking liquid and oil. For something fancier, add vegetables, herbs, spices, vinegars, nuts or nut butters, or citrus juices. See an example here.
Loaf. I tend to denigrate the loaves of the 1970s era vegetarian movement, but I did once eat one I liked. A well-made one could be a type of comfort food. I recommend an actual recipe, as freestyling these can easily lead to rock solid masses or something that never coalesces. Ketchup, mushrooms, and cheese are good signs when you are reading the recipe. An egg can also be helpful.
Burgers. Unlike the loaf, these tend to be pretty good, and the cook is more able to control the cooking process given their smaller size. An egg is a must to help keep a light texture. Mix it with slightly mashed or pureed beans, seasonings, and diced/ minced cooked vegetables or grains. Adjust the texture by adding a little liquid or some type of flour until they hold together but are not wet to the point of being gooey. Shape into patties, and bake for about 15 minutes per side in a hot over (375-400 F). Or cook on a non-stick griddle.
Pate. Basically, this is the burger by someone too lazy to shape burgers or who has no intention of eating them on buns. Bake the mixture in a shallow casserole dish (you don’t want it to be thicker than 3/4″ or so). Eat with crackers or crudites.
Rice and… Feel free to use other grains, but the basic idea is one grain meets one bean and they live happily ever after (in your stomach). Another classic example is pintos and cornbread. Season generously.