Beans and quinoa doesn’t sound like the most exciting lunch, but when done right and sprinkled with a few simple yet flavorful toppings, it’s a combination that’s absolutely craveable. Like many great recipes, this one was created out of necessity: namely, an empty fridge (well, as empty as any food writer’s fridge ever is) and a deep-seated desire to avoid leaving the house on a lazy Sunday.
A bit of fridge and pantry scrounging produced a knob of sharp cheddar cheese, a pound of dried beans, a couple cloves of garlic, some quinoa, and half a bottle of vinegary hot sauce from my favorite Puerto Rican restaurant. (Seriously, if you find yourself in the Bay Area, go, and take home a bottle of their pique as a souvenir.) An odd-sounding roster of ingredients, to be sure, but just trust me: here, it works. The beans, garlic, and bay leaves went into the slow cooker along with salt and water, the quinoa was tossed into a pot, and the cheese got shredded.
Layered together with plenty of hot sauce, it’s kind of Tex-Mex in flavor, but mostly just really good. And excitingly, it reheats wonderfully and can be packed into a mason jar for toting to work. For all of these reasons, I’ve been making it nearly weekly since my discovery. It’s since evolved to include sliced scallions and cilantro, though in all honesty it doesn’t need it – they merely enhance everything else.
Heirloom beans like Rancho Gordo’s Christmas lima beans are absolutely worth the (relative) splurge here: their texture and flavor are superlative. If you’re particularly sensitive to heat, reduce the hot sauce to 1/2 tablespoon per mason jar – as is, the recipe is mildly spicy.
- For the beans:
- 1 pound Christmas lima beans or other meaty, earthy bean
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 large garlic clove, peeled
- 4 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
- For each mason jar:
- 1 cup cooked quinoa
- 2/3 cup cooked beans, plus a few spoonfuls of the liquor
- 1 tablespoon runny, vinegary hot sauce, such as Crystal
- 1/2 a scallion, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup (unpacked) shredded sharp white cheddar, such as Cabot
- 1-2 tablespoons cilantro, optional
- Cook the beans: Rinse the beans. Discard any shriveled ones.
- Add the beans, bay leaves, garlic, 2 teaspoons salt, and enough water to cover the beans by about 2 inches to a slow cooker. Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours. When the beans are soft, but still a little more firm than you’d like, add the remaining 2 teaspoons salt, and continue cooking until done.
- Cool the beans, and transfer to a resealable container with their liquor (the flavorful liquid they’re cooked in) or divvy them up into mason jar lunches.
- Assemble the mason jars: For every 1/2-liter– or pint-size mason jar (they have similar volumes), layer the quinoa, beans, hot sauce, scallions, and cheddar. Pack the cilantro in a resealable plastic bag or wrap it in a piece of parchment, and tuck it into the top of the mason jar.
- When ready to eat, transfer the contents of the mason jar (except the cilantro) to a microwave-safe bowl; heat until hot (about 1 to 1 1/2 minutes). Roughly chop the cilantro, and sprinkle on top. Stir everything together before eating.
- Main Dishes, Beans
- 8-10 servings of beans