Photo: Miriam Kresh

Does just looking at pots and pans inspire you to cook?

It happens to me all the time.

Touring wineries with a couple of girlfriends recently, a sign on the road caught our attention: ceramicist’s studio. We stepped in. There were shelves full of glazed earthenware pots, casseroles, mugs, platters. How might an earnest cook react to that? Well, I’ll tell you: tempted.

I have a weakness for earthenware. But I restrained myself from buying the store out and brought home only one pot. I’d been searching for something to cook beans in. This pot really made me see a delicious bean stew, savory with tomatoes and herbs and baked to perfection.

Does this phenomenon have a name? Pavlovian Pot-Food Vision Syndrome? It’s like looking at a sliced lemon and immediately thinking of…well, gin and tonic, in my case, although others might say lemonade.

I inaugurated my new pot with kidney beans. They’re meaty (but vegan) and robust, and floury enough to absorb the flavors of olive oil and aromatics. And so good paired with cornbread, or spooned over rice. I may have PP-FVS, but I like having it.

I bake my beans, but you may cook them on the stove if you prefer.

Spicy Red Rean Stew Recipe

PrintPrep15 minutes Cook Time3 hours Yield5 people


  • 1/2 onion
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 garlic clove
  • A dollop of olive oil
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion
  • 4-6 garlic cloves (chopped finely)
  • 1 cup chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 6 cups water
  • Salt to taste


  • Plan on first soaking the beans in 4 cups of water overnight.
  • Most directions say to drain and rinse them afterwards. I keep them covered with a kitchen towel and cook them with their soaking water and don’t experience digestive upsets. But whatever you choose to do, soak ‘em.
  • Put the beans in a large pot with water amounting to 6 cups. Add the bay leaf, 1/2 onion, garlic and olive oil. Cover and bake at 300° F (150° C). If cooking on the stovetop, bring to a gentle boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Place a heat-absorbent pad under the pot and cover. Either way, cook until the beans are tender – between 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
  • In a frying pan, heat the olive oil. Add the chopped onions and fry gently until translucent. Add the garlic and tomatoes. Cook over medium heat until the tomatoes have softened. Add all the spices and cook, stirring, for a few minutes, for flavors to blend.
  • Remove a ladle-full of beans from the pot with some of their liquid, and add to the frying pan. Mash the beans into the vegetables and cook together for 3 or 4 minutes, stirring a few times. Add more cooking liquid if the mass becomes dry.
  • Return the flavored beans to the pot. Add salt to taste. Cover and bake (or cook) another hour.
  • Check once in a while to make sure the beans aren’t drying out, and add a little water if needed. If well covered and kept from drying out, you can keep the beans cooking for much longer. Personally, I like to cook them 3 or 4 hours after they’re seasoned and ready; they just seem to get better and better.
  • Serve piping hot.


A way to check if beans are tender: remove some, with their liquid, from the pot. Blow on them. If the skins split and separate from the bean easily, they’re cooked through.

You may dispense with the overnight soaking and pre-cooking, and used canned beans, but they won’t taste as good.

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