A side-effect of doing this cooking thing for 10+ years is that people seem to imagine I’m so sort of domestic diva, eating only homemade bread and milling my own grains and not just someone with an obsessive streak when it comes to making things exactly the way she wants them. Even though I’d love to live in some alternate universe where I’d always have time and energy to make my own, I’m unbothered by frozen breaded chicken things (erm, occasionally), tortellini, boxed stocks, and canned beans; the freezer almost always contains the first two (lunchbox heroes!) and the cabinets, the latter, which is why when friend told me a couple weeks ago kind of sotto voce, almost like a confession, the other day that she’d never cooked her own dried beans, I couldn’t even rouse myself to gasp in faux horreur.
But, I’ve been thinking since about when I bother cooking dried beans and when I absolutely do not and for me, when the beans are one ingredient among many or even with hummus, canned beans suit my needs perfectly. At times when you really want beans to be the star, and I’m going to make the argument that these could and should be, if you can find the time, it’s usually not as much as you think. I was shocked to find my (purchased 15 months ago) dried chickpeas that I’d soaked a little over 24 hours, totally softened after 20 minutes of simmering time, although I’d consider closer to 1 hour the norm. The benefit to cooking beans from scratch is not just deeper flavor but that you get to cook other flavors all the way into the beans, not just add them at the end as an afterthought.