I buy too many beans. Mint green flageolets, tiger-eyed Rancho Gordos from a trip to California, locally grown pinto beans at the farmers market, unidentified white beans from who-knows-where, dried pigeon peas bought in bulk simply because they were on sale.
It’s certainly fine to choose beans for their beauty and weirdness alone, but here’s the rub: I have to then eat those beans. And week after week I reach instead for black beans, chickpeas, navy beans, and lentils. At the grocery store I like to think I’m adventurous, but at dinnertime, routine wins the day and my specialty beans languish.
It’s good to have a friend who shares your penchant for buying too many bulk pantry goods. My friend Sarah is a chef and knows the best place to get bread in Chicago, what to do with your last five farmers’ market strawberries that have gone slightly mushy, and, luckily, what to make with extra beans.
With my move hanging over me and too many dry goods cluttering up both of our cabinets, we started mraaking a point to cook our extra food, together. The premise is simple enough: we cook dinner at her house or mine, using a few ingredients each that we’d like to use up. My sushi rice and nori plus her dried shiitakes and wasabi paste. My yellow eye beans plus her tomato sauce made from last year’s frozen heirloom beauties.
You don’t need a friend for using up languishing pantry goods, but you do need a plan. With a friend, reaching into the back of my cabinet and digging out ingredients for a meal becomes a celebration, an experiment, a reason to think more thoughtfully about how best to use each ingredient.
Monday night I took the train to her house, a tin of still-warm-just-cooked beans in my bag, my contribution to the meal. When I left after dinner, hours later, the same tin was full of leftovers to eat tomorrow. We’d made a pact to meet up again soon to trade my extra French press for her extra cookbook, and to make dinner again soon if we could find a time. And I left with a personal pact to make this recipe from Rachel Roddy again and again.
PS. Find more ideas for reducing food waste, here.