You may have heard that salting beans before or during cooking is a bad idea, resulting in beans that will never soften. This is a complete myth. In fact, soaking beans in a salt water brine and seasoning the water while they cook will actually make for beans that soften faster. It all has to do with magnesium and calcium ions in the beans skin—two molecules that keeps them firm. Salt will replace these ions overnight, allowing the beans to soften more easily for a creamier, more evenly cooked texture.
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Nutty, chewy beans, savory chicken sausage on boldly flavored, pickled peppers: they're a perfect match. [Photograph: Jennifer Olvera] About the author: Jennifer Olvera is a veteran food and travel writer and author of "Food Lovers' Guide to Chicago." Follow her...