Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Beans, Beans, Beans

I've gotten two SOS calls this week from people who were rearranging cupboards and happened across leftover bags of dried beans from their winter and spring  CSA shares. What to do with dried beans?!?! The possibilities are endless and delicious. Most people suggest preparing dried beans in the same way. Soak in water overnight, drain, rinse, and slow cook the next day. Believe it or not, soaking is not a necessary step to successful bean cooking. Most cultures that eat beans daily don't soak their beans before cooking. The slow cooking however is essential! This  can be a simmer on the stove top or an all day affair in the crock pot. You can even cook different kind of beans at one time! They should be around the same size of bean, but it works fine and keeps you from having to use three crock pots at a time to cook the different beans for our Tri-Bean Burrito Blend.  There is more conflicting advice about cooking dried beans than there is about nearly anything else you will want to cook. Some people say don't salt at the beginning, salt at the end. Some say add baking soda at the beginning of cooking, others say NEVER add baking soda. Some say rinse your soaking water, others say you  will lose flavor and nutrients by doing so. I have found that salting about halfway through leaves me with seasoned beans that complement any thing I am putting them in. I have never found the need the need to add baking soda so I can't speak to the result of that. When I do soak I think cooking in the soaking water does give me a more flavorful broth.  There is also lots of conflicting advice about lowering the gas producing effects of beans. The only one proven to work, is eat more beans! You can try products like Bean-o if you would like, but most of us will adapt to digesting them if we continue to eat more of them.

There is one thing that no one is debating...beans are a super food and we all should be eating more. They are full of fiber, protein, iron and minerals. They are naturally low in sodium and fat.  They are an important part of a cholesterol lowering diet, and recommended as a healthy way to help fight cancer. So eat and enjoy knowing that you are doing good things for your health!

Now it's time to cook the beans! Sort through your beans and make sure there are no stones. Remove any shriveled beans as well. Rinse and cover with water. Make sure beans are totally covered and there are several inches of water above bean line. Turn heat to high and bring water to a boil. Let boil for 5 minutes. Remove pot from heat and cover and let sit for one hour. Turn the heat to medium low and bring the water to a boil again. This time let the beans simmer for at least one hour, but probably more like 2 hours. Check beans for tenderness, drain and then use in your favorite recipe.

If you would rather use the crock pot method rinse and sort your beans, then place in the crock pot, add water until there are about 2 inches of water above the beans. Turn onto high and let cook for 5-6 hours.

PLEASE NOTE-If you plan to use the crock pot method and you are cooking red kidney beans, you MUST rinse the beans extra well, soak for an hour, rinse again, and boil  for 10 minutes. Then drain, rinse, and put in the crock pot. This only applies to red kidney beans, and only for the crock pot method. Oddly enough they contain a natural toxin that is destroyed in the cooking process, but the heat in a slow cooker may not be high enough to ensure that it is destroyed.

You can cook a large amount of beans at one time and then freeze them in smaller quantities to use in your favorite recipes. Don't forget that dried beans cooked at home will be more firm than canned beans from the store. About 1 1/2 cups of cooked beans equal a 15 oz. can.

Tri-Bean Burritos
3 cups of your favorite bean, or mix of beans-I used pinto, black, and kidney
1 can green chiles
2 tsp cumin
2 garlic cloves finely chopped
½ tsp. salt
1 bay leaf
1 c.  corn
1 Tbsp lemon juice
6 cups fresh spinach, or  blanched and chopped swiss chard, kale, collard greens, etc.
1 cup cooked rice
In a saucepan mix beans, greens, chiles, cumin, garlic, and salt. Place bay leaf on top. Let simmer for 10 minutes over low heat. Remove bay leaf and add corn. Continue to simmer until corn is warm.  Use tortillas of your choice and place bean mixture down the center and roll the tortillas folding the bottom up and then the sides in. Place in a baking dish, top with your favorite salsa and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.  Serve with salad.

If you have guacamole on hand try spreading over the bean mixture before rolling!  
If you have leftover bean mixture, add veggie broth and salsa and you have Mexican bean soup! Top with chopped cilantro, and crushed tortilla chips! Yum!

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