Melissa Clark’s beans. Photo by Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times.

I don’t agree with Melissa Clark’s suggestion that beans make good dinner party food, but I do recommend them. Clark makes pinto beans using a red wine reduction. You can watch her make her recipe by visiting this embedded link. I’ve tried pinto beans this way before and they are quite tasty so I recommend them…but, if you want to really make beans but you want to put in as little effort as possible, then I recommend throwing them into a crock pot. I don’t use any meat to flavor my beans. For one pound of beans I use about four cups of water and two cups of vegetable stock (if you’re not trying to avoid meat, then use chicken stock). For additional flavor, I add 1/4 teaspoon of thyme, 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper, 1 small diced onion, 1 bay leaf, and 1 teaspoon of salt (you can add more salt later but I recommend starting out with only 1 teaspoon). I set my crock pot on high for 4 hours and let it do all of the work. When my beans have about an hour left to cook, I peel and halve white potatoes and add them to the crock pot. Adding the potatoes thickens the liquid–the pot liquor–and provides added heartiness to your meal. At some point while my beans are cooking, I make cornbread and then that’s dinner. Easy. Inexpensive. Filling.