What Do I Make With the Beans I Panic-Bought and Other Burning Questions?

What Do I Make With the Beans I Panic-Bought and Other Burning Questions?

Remember way back to February when crafting a dinner party menu was at the top of the culinary quandary list? You can’t imagine how much I look forward to having that problem to solve again, but in the meantime, in between washing dishes and emptying the dishwasher (“All. These. Dishes!” – reader Nicki), here are the burning questions on your collective quarantined minds…

What do I do with all the beans I panic-bought? — Maggie

Let’s assume we are talking about canned beans or cooked dried beans that you’ve already soaked and simmered. (Here is a primer on how to cook dried beans.) Some rapid-fire ideas: Add black beans to a deep skillet with onions, jalapeños, cumin, fork-smush that a bit before stuffing and frying in tortillas with cheese and pickled onions; Sub in pinto beans for the chicken in last-week’s recipe and you won’t be disappointed; Marinate a can or two of drained white beans in an oregano-spiked vinaigrette and add the whole thing to a romaine salad with tomatoes, mozzarella, finely minced red onion. (We call this Pizza Bean Salad in my house.) Fry two cans of drained garbanzo beans in more olive oil than you think over medium-high heat with salt until they get really crispy (about 15-20 minutes), then drain on paper towel, toss with cayenne and smoked paprika, and serve with yogurt and pita or naan. (Or throw them into a salad the way you’d throw chicken into any salad.) Sara Forte’s veggie burgers call for a cup of black beans and require other ingredients that might be hard to find at the moment, but it makes for a special dinner, and special might go a long way right now.

I’m suddenly feeling like I have to wow everyone with dinner every night. — Michele

You know how all the experts are suggesting sticking to your usual routine as much as humanly possible? (Exercise, shower, get dressed, commute to your office upstairs to work, etc.) It would be helpful to remind the overly expectant diners in your house about this crucial advice. If you don’t normally produce a parade of James Beard Award-worthy meals at dinnertime, don’t switch up the routine now — for the sake of everybody’s mental health! On the other hand, if you enjoy wow-ing people for dinner and find yourself with a little extra time, earmark a day of the week when you all cook something wow-worthy together. It’s looking more and more like our days are going to start blending together, and I think everyone, including you, might benefit from having something to regularly look forward to.

It’s my eight-year-old’s birthday next week. How can I make it special when she can’t have a party, we can’t go to a restaurant celebrate, and it’s hard to find cake ingredients at the supermarket? — Lynn

The food part is the easy part. If your local bakery isn’t offering curbside pick-up, and you’re determined to make a cake from scratch despite slim pickings in the baking aisle, consider an ice cream cake made from your daughter’s favorite cookies and ice cream (here’s a make-your-own guide). Cheesecakes generally do not call for flour or eggs; and of course the ever-popular donut cake wins big points for its huge return on investment: So much delight, so little work! As for the celebration piece of the puzzle, ask your daughter’s friends to stand outside their homes with “Happy Birthday” signs and drive your celebrant around the neighborhood to wave to the kids she misses so much. (Extra credit for writing “It’s My Birthday!” on the windows of your car in acrylic paint.) Jodi Levine, celebrator extraordinaire from Supermakeit, suggests Zoom dance parties (pro tip: fun for grown-ups, too!) and asking friends to send in a happy birthday video. You can edit them together and play it during her lunch or dinner feast. Most important, explain to your kids how unusual it is that we’re going through this and remind them how lucky you are to be celebrating such a happy occasion together as a family, hopefully in good health.

What other questions do you have? Please share in the comments…

P.S. More burning questions and eight awesome birthday cakes.

(Photo illustration by Maud Passini.)