I love beans for a lot of reasons, but my affection definitely derives from their price. Beans are cheap. Even the best beans are cheaper than almost anything else you can buy to eat. And they’re such a great reminder of how inexpensive cooking for yourself is, if you stay aware. Eliminate some of the frou frou trendy ingredients you see in the magazines, and notice, at the grocery store, that quinoa’s price has doubled (!), and you can feast almost every day for a couple of dollars per meal, a price that might allow for an occasional culinary splurge, whether in the kitchen or out.But it wasn’t long before I started loving beans for their taste and easy prep. Cooking up a pot from dried almost doesn’t feel like cooking, your pot’s just simmering there in the background, barely any of your attention needed to make all sorts of meals possible. If you’ve never made hummus from total scratch, that’s a great place to start with bean cookery.
I put a few things in with the beans when I cook them, most importantly olive oil, because it makes the beans creamy. Garlic, onion, and fennel also help add flavor. I’ll eat a bowl of freshly cooked beans with their broth and even more olive oil drizzled on top, and some breadcrumbs if I have them, and that humble bowl is what inspires this far less humble gratin.
That and mac ‘n cheese.