Q: How do I cook dried beans such as navy beans or pinto beans?
Lynne: Here's the deal with all dried beans. Rinse the beans and discard any small pebbles or shriveled beans. Put the beans in a bowl and cover with 2 inches cold water and soak overnight. Alternatively, you can cover the beans with 2 inches of boiling water and let stand 1 hour. After soaking, drain away the water. Put the beans into a deep saucepan. Add fresh cold water to cover by 2 to 3 inches. You could also add flavorings such as garlic, bay leaves, cloves, onion, carrots, celery, a bit of chile pepper but take care with salt and don't add anything acidic because acid will stop the beans from cooking.
To cook, bubble the beans very slowly, partially covered, 45 to 90 minutes. The beans are done when they taste tender but are not falling apart. You could add salt during the last 10 minutes of cooking. The cooking time varies according to the type of bean and how fresh it is. Once cooked, you can hold the beans in the refrigerator about 3 days no more. Some people save the liquid along with the beans and use it for soups or to moisten the dishes the beans will be added to. Personally, I love bean salads a little garlic, a little olive oil, vinegar and perhaps some red onion added to the cooked beans. This is a Tuscan classic. Let your imagination go!