4 Easy & Delicious Ways To Cook New Life Into Leftover Beans
Stumped on what to do with old stems? Perplexed about how to use up peels? In her new book, The Everlasting Meal Cookbook: Leftovers A-Z, acclaimed chef Tamar Adler shares creative recipes that reimagine every last scrap, seed, and leftover to help home cooks waste less food. In this excerpt, Adler shares smart ways to recreate an ingredient you'll find in most health-conscious kitchens: leftover beans!
Saving overcooked & undercooked beans
If by the time your beans are tender, their skins have burst and they've turned to mush, blend them—leaving behind some of their cooking liquid—with a clove of pounded garlic and a long drizzle of olive oil. Now you have bean purée, which can top little crisp crostini or be spread on crackers or eaten like mashed potatoes with a hearty chop. A little pour of cream or a spoonful of ghee are good additions. Or, turn overcooked beans into soup by puréeing them with their liquid, adding a bit of stock or water if needed and a few drops of red wine vinegar. Or turn them into a version of hummus by blending them with a clove of pounded garlic, a squeeze of lemon juice, and a spoonful of tahini paste.
Undercooked beans can be salvaged by being further simmered in flavorful fatty liquid. They will eventually surrender but may burst by the time they do. In that case, follow the instructions for Beans, Overcooked (above).
Pasta e Fagioli (15–20 min)
1–2 cups cooked beans, 2–3 cups well-seasoned bean or farro cooking liquid, 1 Parmesan rind, 1 sprig rosemary, salt, 1 lb short pasta (ditalini, orecchiette, lumache), 3–4 tbsp. best-possible olive oil plus more to taste, freshly ground black pepper, freshly grated Parmesan cheese, lemon juice (optional)
In a large pot, combine the beans, cooking liquid, Parmesan rind, and rosemary and bring to a simmer. In a separate pot of boiling water salted to taste like pleasant seawater, cook the pasta. Or cook the pasta directly in the bean or farro broth, which means adding a good deal of extra water so that the pasta has somewhere to move around. Do this unreservedly, adding 1–2 more cups. If cooking in water, reserve ¼ cup of the pasta water just before draining. Remove the Parmesan rind from the beans. Tip the pasta into the bean pot (if it isn't already there) and stir well, adding the olive oil as you stir. Add a pour of reserved pasta water if needed. Add black pepper and top with Parmesan. I like the cozy richness of this, but if you are happier with a little contrast, a squeeze of lemon juice just before eating provides it.
Beans & Greens & Egg (10 min)
¼–½ cup cooked beans, 1–2 cups leftover cooked greens (kale or collards or chard), 1–2 eggs, salt, olive oil, pickled chiles or a beloved chili oil (optional)
In a small pan, warm the beans and greens together with a sprinkle of water. When just bubbling, crack the egg(s) into the pan, salt each egg, then cover the pan and cook over low heat until the whites are set and the yolks as you like them, 3–5 min. Drizzle it all copiously with olive oil and eat topped with pickled chiles or chili oil (if using).
Beans & Egg on Garlicky Toast (5 min)
Optional cilantro-garlic paste (½ bunch cilantro, including stems, 2 cloves garlic, 2 tbsp. olive oil, salt), ½ cup cooked beans, hard-crusted bread, 1 clove garlic, halved, 1–2 eggs, butter (or ghee or olive oil), Sichuan chili crisp or other beloved chili oil
If your beans are canned, make the cilantro-garlic paste: Chop the cilantro and garlic, then pound to a paste with salt. Heat a small pot, add the oil, and cook the cilantro-garlic mixture over medium heat until it just begins to soften, about 2 min. In a small pot (the one with the cilantro-garlic paste if using), sprinkle the beans with a little water and warm them through. Toast the bread and rub with the cut side of the clove of garlic. In a small pan, fry the egg(s) in butter. When the beans are warm and the eggs cooked, spoon the beans over the toast, top with the egg, and dollop with chili crisp.
This is also good with sliced scallions on top. It is perhaps worth adding that beans are good in, on, or under any breadlike substance. Follow the procedure above, but spoon the beans over a tortilla, or in injera, or chapati or a dosa or a pita, and so on.
Excerpted from The Everlasting Meal Cookbook by Tamar Adler. Copyright © 2023 by Tamar Adler. Reprinted by permission of Scribner, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Inc.
Tamar Adler is a James Beard and IACP award-winning author, acclaimed food writer, and Vogue contributing editor.
Adler’s cooking philosophy is informed in part by years of cooking in acclaimed restaurant kitchens such as Chez Panisse and Prune, where chefs prioritized minimizing food waste and making the most out of each ingredient, both for economical and sustainability reasons. A master at translating those restaurant learnings to the home kitchen, Adler has authored the award-winning books, Something Old, Something New and An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace, which advocated for using leftovers and food scraps. The Everlasting Meal Cookbook: Recipes for Leftovers A-Z is her latest book.