Sure, it’s easy to open a can of beans and heat them up with some soft onions and garlic. And I don’t begrudge you in the slightest if this is what your time budget allows.

However, don’t be afraid to work with dried beans, either. It takes some forethought and some time, but hey, a pot of beans simmering on the stove? That’s a pretty Maine thing to do on a cool fall afternoon.

There are a number of ways to get beans soft — presoaking or an extended cooking time being the most common — however, either way still requires covering the beans in water and applying heat over a generous period of time.

There are two benefits to soaking beans in water before cooking them — even up to 36 hours before. It reduces the, ahem, windage for which beans are blamed. A long soak in tepid water, draining them and covering them with water again before cooking removes properties that make beans more difficult for our bodies to digest (hence the unnecessary reaction), and it also makes the nutrients in beans more readily available to us.

It’s been reported to me by friends who swear by their trick, which is to soak and rinse the beans three times before cooking to remove the offending characteristics. But I’ll admit, I haven’t tested whether several soakings makes a large difference.

There are two tips, however, that I have found to be true. When you salt beans at the beginning, as you typically would with any soup or sauce, it hardens the skin and retards the softening and silkiness of the beans. It also requires a longer cooking time.

Second, older beans, ones that float to the top when you pour water over them, can sometimes take forever to soften. If you buy in bulk, be sure it’s a supply you will use within six months or less.

When I cook beans, I usually make extra and freeze them so that when I want beans in a hurry, I already have them done. One cup of dried beans will make about 21/2 cups of cooked beans.

The poblano peppers are a lovely way to use up a little of this or that. If you don’t have pork leftover — or rice for that matter — think about substituting beef, chicken or fish. No rice? What about polenta, cous cous, corn bread or grain that arrived on the table a few nights ago?

This is meant to be an easy meal, so don’t feel as if you have to start with braising pork shoulder for several hours before you can put your dinner together. Happy creating to you!


This is a dish I typically make after serving rice for a previous meal. If the rice is cool when you begin to make the filling, be sure to add a little extra time for cooking.

6 poblano peppers

3 cups diced, canned tomatoes

1 cup minced green onion

2 cloves garlic

1 teaspoon minced fresh oregano

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 cups shredded pork shoulder

2 cups cooked brown or white rice

2 cups grated Monterey Jack cheese, about 4 ounces

1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro

2 tablespoons lime juice

Preheat broiler. Make a slit lengthwise down one side of the peppers and place onto a baking sheet. Slide under the broiler to scorch the skin. Turn every few minutes for about 10 minutes.

Remove from heat and let cool some. Gently pull off the skins and make a slit down one side to remove the seeds.

Meanwhile, combine tomatoes, onion, garlic, oregano and salt in the food processor and pulse until well combined. Transfer to a sauce pan and heat over medium-high heat until the mixture is pulpy and has lost some of its moisture, 8 to 10 minutes.

Add pork, rice, half of the cheese, cilantro and lime juice to the pan and combine. If the pork and rice are leftovers and therefore cold, wait to add the cheese until everything else is hot. Dividing the rice mixture evenly, stuff the six peppers and place back under the broiler until the tops of the peppers begin to sizzle. Top with the cheese and return to the broiler for another minute or so to melt the cheese.

Serves 4 to 6.


1 avocado; peeled, pitted and sliced

1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, halved

1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion

11/2 tablespoons lime juice

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 head romaine

Gently combine all ingredients and serve within 1 hour.

Serves 4 to 6.


If you make your own cheese, you may already know that it’s helpful to the softening of grains and beans to soak them in whey before cooking. Whey adds important vitamin B and riboflavin to beans and grains.

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 cup diced onions, about 1/2 onion

2 teaspoons cumin

1 tablespoon minced garlic, about 1 clove

1 tablespoon minced jalapeno pepper, about 1/2 pepper (optional)

1 cup dried black beans

Water to cover by at least 1 inch

Sea salt

Soak the beans in a large bowl or stock pot covered in tepid water by at least 2 inches overnight and up to 36 hours. Drain and set aside. Heat oil in a medium stock pot over medium-high heat. Saute the onions in oil until translucent, about 7 minutes. Add cumin, garlic and pepper, and saute for another 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add the beans and cover with water by at least 1 inch. Cover with lid and cook for 1 to 11/2 hours or until the beans are soft all the way through. Salt liberally to taste, and serve or freeze for up to six months.

Serves 4 to 6.

Anne Mahle of Rockland is the author of “At Home, At Sea,” a recipe book about her experiences cooking aboard the family’s windjammer. She can be reached at: [email protected]