I always, always, always keep dried beans in my pantry. A one-pound bag of dry beans is about the same price as one can of prepared beans, but half a bag of prepared beans from dry is 2 cans worth of beans--clearly a more frugal, if slightly more time-consuming option.
However, with a little planning, dry beans are easy to use--and you control the salt content. Just soak 1/2 pound of dry beans in 4 cups of water overnight. The next day, whenever you get around to it, drain the beans, rinse well, and put in a saucepan with a fresh 4 cups of water, a pinch of salt (optional), and simmer until the beans are tender--about 20-30 minutes.
So now that you know how easy dry beans are to make, you'll start keeping them in your pantry, too. Right? Right?
Other on-hand items in my house include bacon in the freezer, and pesto (either in the fridge or freezer).
When Mr.W and I are invited to a friend's house, I never show up empty-handed. I am a food-maker, and it makes me happy to see friends, family, coworkers and even strangers gobble up my food. But when the purse strings are tight and grocery shopping is limited to little more than essentials, one has to be creative. That's where pantry & freezer staples come in.
I recently made this dip to bring to a gathering of friends, to rave reviews. Make some today--you'll be glad you did.
White Bean, Pesto and Bacon Spread
yield: about 2-1/2 cups
- 1/2 pound cannelini or other white beans, cooked and cooled from dry (or 2 cans, drained and rinsed)
- 1 tablespoon fresh oregano
- 1/4 cup pesto
- 1 small onion, sliced and sauteed slowly in a bit of olive oil until golden and beginning to caramelize and deglazed with 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1/4 pound bacon, chopped and cooked to crispy, drained on paper towels
- 1 tablespoon bacon grease reserved from cooking bacon
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, if needed
In a food processor, combine beans, oregano, pesto, onion-balsamic mixture and bacon grease; puree, adding additional extra-virgin olive oil, if needed. You're looking for a creamy, spreadable consistency.
Serve at room temperature topped with crispy bacon bits on crostini or fresh bread slices.
Warm thanks to Michele Humes of Fine Furious Life who inspired this recipe in her recent post and comments.