Here is the most authentic recipe for beans – they are very tasty for dinner

AROUND 1,001 BAN-RELATED articles have been published over the past few years. Topics included which dried beans to order online in bags, which to wipe down with antiseptic on arrival, how to soak beans for hours while trapped in your house, and how to best cook those beans afterwards so that eating them could momentarily stave off your sense of impending doom. Now finally all our starters are dead and we have a supply of beans staring at us with their millions of little beady eyes from the cupboard. It’s beautiful!

A few of the best bean recipes I tried during the pandemic turned out to be very good—a great side dish or a light dinner, nothing special about them. It seemed okay to leave the beans for a while, despite the eye of the cupboard.

Then our friends Bradley and Jillian invited us over for dinner (a joy anyway!), and Bradley made the beans, and they were, indeed, the best beans. These were beans worthy of a main course, a dinner: very savory, somehow possessing both a very satisfying simplicity and, when you thought about the beans as you gulped them down, a slightly beguiling complexity. These beans had an I-FORCED-TO-BE-THESE-BEANS quality that seems to be rare among beans.

Gillian and I went from kindergarten to high school together and then worked for the same weekly newspaper for a while, and she’s wonderful. (Also fun fact: Her mom was a chimney sweep when we were growing up.) Jillian then brought Bradley’s wonder to our sphere: Bradley founded AMIGA Light in Seattle and designed lighting for local restaurants, including Home of Phnom Penh Noodles and Butcher’s Table, and he’s known to all as a friend, and he’s also known as a next-level home cook. (More fun: Jillian and Bradley have two adorable rescue chihuahuas and are fostering more chihuahuas, so they could have a batch of incredibly cute puppies at any moment.)

Bradley graciously accepted my praise and pointedly noted that although he had made beans and ham before, this method involved a lot olive oil turned out, he thought, even better. He also mentioned tomatoes, anchovies and shallots. He also served beans with his good and garlicky homemade sourdough focaccia because Bradley kept his sourdough. There was plenty of parm to sprinkle on the beans and a simple simple green salad and it was an absolutely lovely lunch with Gillian’s lovely apple crisp beautifully baked in a cast iron pan for dessert.

The next day, tormented by the recipe, Bradley sent me a methodological prose poem with the rough sums that grandmothers give. He also kindly offered to come cook his best beans (my name) with me anytime. I took him up on it and he was amused by my efforts to measure out things like a bradley sized palm of salt to give you this traditional recipe. (We also made The Making of Bradley Sweek’s Best-Ever Beans video, which you can watch above. Due to my over-enthusiasm in adding water, my version of Bradley’s Best-Ever Beans ended up more soupy than his, but Bradley said that’s just great – he’s nothing if not forgiving, and so is his recipe, as the beans were still divinely good.

Bradley Swick’s Best Beans
(Pre-note: You’ll want to soak the beans – see step 1.)

4 servings for dinner; double for dinner, big family or punk house

Bradley calls this recipe Tuscan or Peruvian, but he got the idea to add vinegar after seeing it used in Cuba. (He also learned to “love pressure cooker beans” there, but that’s another story/recipe.) Choose whatever type of dried beans you prefer: Bradley gets his at your local Big John’s PFI (“But they are not always fresh, so it is important to soak overnight”), from Rancho Gordo (“always fresh”) or Fiesta brands from US Foods CHEF’STORE (“From Eastern Washington and always fresh! The best black beans anywhere”). I would argue that larger caliber beans like scarlet run or crown add grandeur here. Bradley also recommends Mutti brand canned tomatoes. He credits the copious amounts of olive oil used for the extraordinary end result, but I’d say the umami from the anchovies (or their vegetable friend, the strong and salty olives) also does a lot of good. I have never had such good beans. Thanks Bradley! — Bethany Jean Clément

1 pound dried beans (see note above and step 1)
About 3 teaspoons of salt (aka 1 bradley palm)
1 tablespoon vinegar – red wine, apple cider or what have you
About 1½ cups extra virgin olive oil of a decent quality
1 2-ounce can anchovies, coarsely chopped, with extra oil (for vegetarian/vegan friends, substitute about 4 ounces pitted and chopped dried olives with extra oil)
1 large shallot, chopped
3-4 cloves of garlic, grind
1 28 oz can of tomatoes
2-3 medium to large carrots, quartered and sliced
Freshly ground black pepper
About 1 tablespoon plus fresh rosemary or sage (or use fresh basil in summer)
Grated parmesan, for decoration

  1. If you can, soak the beans overnight in water with an extra couple of inches to cover (and even 4-6 hours is fine too). Whether it’s fresh dry beans or old, they won’t hurt and will always help.
  2. Drain the beans and place them, salt, vinegar, and about a cup of olive oil—the key to making the beans really flavorful and savory—in a large pot.
  3. Add water about 2 inches above the top of the beans, bring to a boil for 10-15 minutes, then reduce to a simmer and cover. Check them every now and then – you may need to add a little water here and there if the level drops below the beans. Use hot tap water or water from a boiling kettle and the temperature will not drop too much.
  4. Start testing for tenderness after 40 minutes, and continue with the following steps in the meantime. Your beans will take an hour or two, maybe a little more – they should hold together but be soft like butter inside. Just like that – with nothing else – you’ll be amazed at how good they taste. But…
  5. In a medium skillet over medium heat, add ¼ inch of olive oil, anchovies/their oil, and shallots, then cook for about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant. Add the tomatoes, carrots, herbs of your choice and about 20 grinds of black pepper. Sauté over medium heat until bubbling, reduce to medium and cook for about 15 minutes, until well browned, then remove from heat.
  6. Once your beans are done, add the artful goodness. Mix in beans. Add another splash of olive oil. You can leave it simmering while you do other things – it will only get better.
  7. Serve with plenty of grated Parma.

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