Often used in Boston baked beans, navy beans are small and white. (It gets its name because the U.S. Navy has long served this bean as a staple food). It's also a great bean for soups. Look for navy beans dried as well as canned.
1 cup dried beans = 2 to 2-1/2 cups cooked
You can use flageolet or other small white beans, such as pea beans, but cooking times may need to be adjusted.
Choose dried beans that look plump, unwrinkled, and evenly colored. Pick over dried beans before using to remove any small pebbles.
Canned beans should be thoroughly rinsed and drained before using. Dried should be soaked before cooking, both to speed cooking time and to reduce any gas-causing tendencies. There are two ways to soak dried beans: Overnight soak: Rinse the beans, then cover with an inch of cold water and let soak at room temperature for at least four hours or overnight. Drain and rinse the beans before cooking them. Quick-soak method: Rinse the beans, then put in a saucepan, cover with an inch of water, and bring to a boil. Boil for a few minutes and then let them soak for an hour off the heat, drain, and then add fresh water and continue cooking.
Soaked beans will cook in about 60 minutes. Use 3 cups of water for each cup of uncooked beans. You can season the beans by adding bay leaves, herb sprigs, or garlic cloves to the cooking water. The myth that adding salt to beans while they cook will toughen their skins is completely false, so feel free to salt while cooking to boost the beans' flavor.
Canned beans have a shelf life of 2 to 3 years. Store dried beans in a covered container for up to 1 year. You can precook beans and store them, refrigerated, in their cooking liquid for up to 3 days.