Dried beans might seem too homey for some people, but our family likes them. From another standpoint, they are inexpensive, feed a lot of people and are easy to make.
My preference is large butterbeans. Others in the family like pintos and black-eyed peas. Not many enjoy navy beans or northern beans, yet we eat those too.
Most all of us enjoy red beans and rice. The only thing I do not like about the dish are the big red kidney beans. I was so happy when I found some small red beans that work great.
I am not sure where I got the following recipe, but it is good. I think perhaps that it is a James Beard recipe. It is the only one I use when we want red beans and rice.
When we have dried beans of any kind, all we need to make it a super meal is some homemade cornbread, freshly sliced tomatoes and a generous slice of Vidalia onion. Sounds a little Southern, doesn’t it?

RED BEANS AND RICE

• 1 lb. dried small red beans
• 4 qts. water
• 1/2 cups butter
• 3/4 cup chopped onion
• 3/4 cup chopped green pepper
• 3/4 cup chopped celery
• 2 teaspoons minced garlic
• 2 bay leaves
• 2 teaspoons salt or to taste
• 2 teaspoons Hungarian paprika
• 1 teaspoon dried whole thyme
• 1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
• 1/2 teaspoon dried whole oregano
• 1 lb. smoked Polish sausage, cut in 1-inch pieces
• 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
• Oven Rice

Sort and wash beans. Place in 6-quart Dutch oven. Cover with water 2 inches above beans; let soak overnight. Drain beans. Add 4 quarts water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium; cook uncovered 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. Melt butter in large skillet. Add onions, celery, green peppers and garlic. Sauté until tender. Add sautéed vegetables and next 6 ingredients into beans; cook uncovered 1 hour, stirring occasionally and adding additional water, if needed.

Bake sausage at 350 degrees for 20 minutes; drain well. Stir sausage mixture into beans mixture. Cook uncovered 30 minutes. Remove bay leaves. Stir in parsley. Serve over Oven Rice.

OVEN RICE

• 1 1/2 cups uncooked regular rice
• 2 1/2 cups chicken broth
• 1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped celery
• 1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped onionm
• 1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped green pepper
• 1 1/2 tablespoon butter
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
• Dash ground red pepper
• Pinch of white pepper
Combine all ingredients in a 2-quart baking pan, stirring well. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour, or until all liquid is absorbed.

— Prudence Hilburn of Piedmont, Alabama, has won more than 30 national cooking awards and written several cookbooks, including, “Simply Southern and More.” Write her at prudencehilburn@aol.com or visit www.prudencehilburn.com.