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Cooking for one

We talk so much about hosting for others, but what about cooking for one? Chef Vilda Gonzales says this recipe for silky, brothy beans is the answer.

A note from vilda

Feeding myself, and by myself I mean only me, is often a balance between utility, convenience and deep nourishment. While I certainly intend to indulge in the romance of slowing down and feeding myself lavishly as a regular affair, meals for one tend to teeter into a more functional space. My strategy for feeding myself well when I lack the proper ambition or forethought is to mooch off of my past self’s drive, or in other words: I rely on simple, nutrient-dense staples (read: a pot of beans) to serve as the backbone of a quick, satiating meal. Beans are eternally generous in this department; especially when cooked from scratch, as the process itself yields a silky broth that’s almost just as valuable as the beans themselves. A pot of beans is resourceful and giving and comforting and so, so delicious. I’ll serve them in their broth and enjoy them with a poached egg, or maybe with some wilted greens, or a leftover green sauce. I’ll toss them with pasta, eat them with rice, with a can of sardines, or plain and generously drizzled with olive oil. 

There are a few keys to achieving a delicious, craveable pot of beans. The first, of course, is seeking out the best dry beans you can find. Next comes soaking them, a step some might argue as optional but in my book makes all the difference in ensuring that you’ll have even cooking, tender, and digestible beans. I soak and cook the beans with a strip of kombu for each respective step; this helps to tenderize the beans, aids in neutralizing anti-nutrients that make beans notoriously hard to digest, and adds a healthy dose of minerals. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly - is not skimpking on the gratuitous amount of olive oil and salt called for in the cooking process. The aromatics are responsible for introducing flavor, but the olive oil and salt play the invaluable role of seasoning the beans from the inside out. Play around with whatever aromatics you have on hand and find your own sweet spot, then treat yourself to a warm bowl of brothy beans (in solitude or in good company). 


  • 2 cups of dried beans
  • 2 strips kombu 
  • Filtered water 
  • 1-2 bay leaves 
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt, plus more to taste 
  • ¼ cup olive oil 
  • 2 shallots, halved 
  • 1 head of garlic, halved down the equator 
  • A few sprigs of hard herbs (sage, thyme, or rosemary)
  • A few grinds of black pepper 
  • 1 dried chili of choice, or a teaspoon of red pepper flakes 
  • A small splash sherry vinegar 


Add the beans and one strip of kombu to a bowl that is large enough to accommodate the beans at least doubling in size. Cover the beans in plenty of filtered water. Soak at room temperature for 8 hours, but no more. If your schedule gets away from you and you don’t have enough time to cook your soaked beans after the 8 hour mark, transfer the bowl of soaking beans to the fridge until you’re ready to tend to them. 

Strain the beans and discard the soaking liquid. Give them gentle rinse, then transfer them to a pot. Add enough filtered water to cover the beans by at least 2 inches. Add the olive oil, salt, second strip of kombu, and all of the aromatics to the pot. Bring to a boil, then immediately reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. The beans should look like they’re dancing, not raging. Skim off any scum that rises to the top. 

Cook for anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 hours (or more) depending on the age or variety of your beans. In my experience, the average (soaked) bean takes about an hour to cook. Your beans are ready when they look earnestly plump, and are almost bursting through their skin. They should be fully tender and flavorful. Take the pot off the heat and season the broth with a splash of vinegar. Taste for seasoning, and adjust with another pinch of salt if necessary. Enjoy!

Vilda Gonzales is a chef and recipe developer who believes that food should be delicious, flavorful, and indulgent, while also being deeply nourishing and inherently healthful. Her mission is to rewire our collective relationship to what eating well truly means, through the lens of seasonality, sensuality, and intuitive home cooking.