If putting a big pot of dried beans on the stove to simmer away for few hours sounds like a totally winter thing to you, you may be missing out on some of summer's best dinners. As we've pointed out recently, sometimes cooking a large batch of something low and slow is the answer to cutting down on dinnertime stress. And there's always the Instant Pot, which makes quick work of cooking dried beans, no steamy stovetop pot necessary. Once your beans are cooked and stashed in the fridge, they're a boon for meal planning, easily filling out satisfying main-dish salads, sautés, and toasts: the kind of summer-friendly meals that are more assembly than cooking.
To suss out some more warm-weather bean tactics, I turned to a few favorite chefs and cookbook authors to learn how they prepare beans in the summer and which legumes they're most likely to grab from the grocery store shelf (or click into their online cart). Here's what they had to say:
Photo by Steven Lee
Le Puy green lentils
Name: David Lee, chef/co-founder of Planta in Miami.
Go-to cooking method: I like green lentils because they're quick to cook and full of iron and protein—plus they work great [and hold their shape] in soups, stews, or salads. I usually add a lot of aromatics or spices to the cooking liquid: garlic, onion, bay leaf, clove, cinnamon bark, and thyme. My base is typically water, but I'll usually add a generous hit of miso to incorporate some umami. I think the best way to cook legumes at home is in a pressure cooker: all the flavor gets packed into the lentil, and you'll also get a naturally creamy stock as a byproduct.
What's your summer bean sitch?: I love local pinto beans. There's a farmers market that's walking distance from my house and I always look forward to getting these pinto beans that are only available at the end of summer. A quick dinner move would be a bean soup topped with a "backyard" pesto. If you have herbs or some sort of green growing outside, you can whip together something pretty easily to dress up your beans! Serve with sourdough bread and a generous drizzle of olive oil.
Photo by Kristin Perers
Cannellini beans or Umbrian lentils
Name: Anissa Helou, author of nine cookbooks largely focused on the food of the Levant, including her latest Feast: Food of the Islamic World.
Go-to cooking method: In winter, I cook cannellini beans in a spiced tomato sauce with lamb shanks or pork belly. After the meat has braised (in water), for about 45 minutes, I add the beans and cook for another 45 minutes. At the end, I'll add tomato paste and a combination of cinnamon, allspice, and black pepper. As for the lentils, I liked to cook them separately first, then finish them in a fresh tomato sauce with carrots, and serve them topped with fresh yogurt and dill.
What's your summer bean sitch?: In summer, I buy fresh butter beans and cook them simply, in water without salt. Once done and drained, I dress them with lemon juice, olive oil, fresh garlic, salt, and I add a little chopped parsley at the end.
Photo by Peter Cassidy, Courtesy of Kyle Cathie
Name: Yohanis Gebreyesus, chef/owner of Antica and Weyra restaurants in Addis Ababa, television host, and author of Ethiopia: Recipes and Traditions From the Horn of Africa.