If 2020 has been kind to anyone, it has been beans. While the legumes have been fundamental to diets around the world for hundreds of years, beans have grown in stature this year, as the coronavirus pandemic has placed renewed value on foods that are easily stored, long-lasting, high in nutrients, and inexpensive.
I love making beans from scratch and am, like many food professionals, a Rancho Gordo zealot. Yet I've found that I rarely have the emotional energy to cook dried beans the way I did at the beginning of quarantine: Now, many nights of the week, I eat beans from a pouch that heat up in the microwave in 60 seconds. And they are really, really good.
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Founded by Ibraheem Basir, A Dozen Cousins sells wildly flavorful, vegan, ready-to-eat beans, the pouches of which now line my cabinet. Basir, who grew up in Brooklyn and later moved to Berkeley, wanted to "create a brand that leveraged authentic Creole, Caribbean, and Latin American dishes that I had grown up with, while using the best ingredients possible," he says. The microwavable pouches of beans come in flavors like Cuban black beans, Trini chickpea curry, and Mexican cowboy beans. All three of these have done the heavy lifting for me on weeknights I don't feel like cooking and need to rein in delivery spending.
Paired with rice, or really just about whatever you have on hand (tortilla chips make perfect bean-eating utensils), the beans are beautifully seasoned and perfect as a main dish. Being beans, they're filling enough that I don't feel compelled to add meat. (In recent months, I've been trying to cut back on meat consumption.)
Basir says he eats the beans most days with rice, and they're flavorful enough that you don't need much else. I've recently taken to stuffing them into quesadillas and burritos.
"When I came up with the idea for A Dozen Cousins I was living in Berkeley and had really fallen in love with the natural food movement and the focus on high-quality wholesome foods," Basir says. "At the same time, I reflected on my childhood where I grew up in Brooklyn in a household where we viewed food as much more than fuel or medicine. For me and my family, food was a way that we stayed connected to our culture, celebrated holidays, and showed each other love. I started A Dozen Cousins because I wanted to bring those two worlds together."
A Dozen Cousins will be available in Whole Foods nationwide starting next month. They are currently available on Amazon, Fresh Direct, and other major retailers.
To buy: Variety Pack (Cuban Black Beans, Mexican Cowboy Beans, Trini Chickpea Curry), $14.99
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