Here's my adaptation of bean maven Steve Sando's basic stovetop method for cooking beans. If you have a pressure cooker or a slow cooker, feel free to experiment with it. This recipe gives the beans a relatively neutral seasoning that leaves them easy to take in different directions. If desired, you can add herbs and spices (torn dried chile peppers, toasted and ground cumin seeds, black peppercorns, oregano) to the cooking liquid, but resist the urge to add anything acidic, such as tomatoes, citrus, or vinegar, until the beans are cooked, or the skins of the beans will not soften as they should.
2. Pour the oil into a medium pot over medium heat. When it starts to shimmer, add the carrot, celery, onion, and garlic. Cook until the vegetables start to soften, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the beans and their soaking liquid, and add more water as needed to cover by about 1 inch.
3. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low or medium-low so that the liquid barely simmers, cover, and cook the beans until tender, 1 to 2 hours (or even longer, depending on the variety and age of the beans).
4. Add the salt, and cook for another 10 to 20 minutes so that the beans absorb the salt. Taste, and add more salt if needed. Whatever you're not using immediately, cool to room temperature and refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks, or portion into heavy-duty freezer-safe plastic bags and freeze for several months.
From Serve Yourself: Nightly Adventures in Cooking for One by Joe Yonan (Ten Speed Press, 2011). Copyright © 2011 by Joe Yonan. Photographs copyright © 2011 by Ed Anderson. All rights reserved. Used with permission of Ten Speed Press.
Adam Rapoport, editor in chief of Bon Appetit magazine and the website www.bonappetit.com, knows his way around a grill. He has edited an entire book on the subject: The Grilling Book: The Definitive Guide from Bon Appetit.