Saturday, September 10, 2011

My Ultimate Guide To Beans

A Quick Intro
In four years of blogging, most of it as a vegetarian, I can't believe I've actually never written a post totally devoted to beans.  I love beans!  I eat them 4-5 times a week easy, probably everyday.  Soups, salads, pastas, with Mexican, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and Indian accents.  They're easy to cook, hard to mess up, versatile, and extremely healthy.  So, perhaps because the topic is too big to post about, or because it's been written about exhaustively in many other places (and I have the bean cookbooks to prove it!), but I'm going to try.

Let's Make a Pot O'Beans

  • While you can buy your beans from great heirloom or organic seed purveyors like Rancho Gordo or Seed Savers (I'm like a kid in a candy bean store!), if you're just starting, I recommend picking up a bag of Goya beans at the supermarket (NOT the store brand, as the quality of these aren't usually as good and old beans don't cook up as well).  Black or red beans are the easiest place to start.  Lentils are a totally different area (more on them later).
  • Rinse and sort half the bag of beans (approximately 1 1/2 cups dried), saving the other half for another day (or make them all, just double the water . . .but that's a lot of beans!).  Throw away any funny or misshapen ones.  Look for rocks, especially in bags of smaller beans.  
  • Dump the beans into a pot or bowl and cover with approximately 5-8 cups (preferably filtered) water (depending on if you're just making basic beans or bean soup).  
  • Salt the beans!  Yes, salt the beans.  Sprinkle some table or kosher salt in the pot to help beans absorb water.  Trust me.  I know it's against popular belief, but Christopher Kimball of Cook's Illustrated says so.  And it works.
  • Leave overnight, or about 8-12 hours. Some people say you have to refrigerate or keep them cool so they don't ferment.  I've never had a problem with that.  
  • In the morning, before you cook, look at the beans and toss the floaters.  They aren't good.
  • Cook. (I even cook them in the soaking water, but you can get fresh.  Some say changing the water reduces gas; I say eating more beans reduces gas). Okay, there are a few ways to do this, mainly stovetop or slow cooker (I'm not a pressure-cooker girl so can't help you there).  For stovetop, bring to gentle boil and then simmer until beans are cooked.   In the crockpot, cook beans for 8-10 hours on Low or 6-8 on high.  
  • That's the basic beans.  You can then drain and then use them in other recipes.  Or, if you like bean soup, which is my favorite, I start adding ingredients midway through cooking, once beans are almost tender.  If you add acids, like tomatoes, too early, the beans will toughen.  When I'm first trying a new bean, I simply saute carrots, onions, celery, and garlic in olive oil and then add it to the pot halfway through cooking so the flavor of the bean really comes out.  Once you know the beans, you can add lots of things.  Sometimes to thicken a bean soup, I'll puree up to half with my immersion blender, great for vegan "cream" soups.
  • Oops, I forgot to soak!  No worries, just put the rinsed and sorted beans in a big pot of water, boil and simmer until done; it'll just take longer.  And don't bother with the "boil for 5 minutes, turn off for an hour, and then simmer."  It's just not necessary to turn them off.  
  • Storage of Cooked Beans:  some people drain beans to store; since I usually make soup, I leave them in the liquid.  Beans stay good in the fridge for a few days--just reboil and serve.  They freeze well, too (though sometimes they are a bit mealy, depending on the type).
  • Storage of Dried Beans:  so you have 1 1/2 cups of beans left in that bag?  Remove them from the bag and store in a labeled jar; keep in cabinet or another shaded place.  Sometimes I combine all of my bean remnants into one soup, called beanbag soup.
  • A note about canned beans:  they'll do in a pinch, of course, just be sure to rinse really well.  But once you become accustomed to your own cooked beans, you won't go back (especially for chickpeas/garbanzos!)

I Love Lentils!

  • The rules for lentils are different because they never need to be soaked.  
  • There are lots of different kinds of lentils, from the standard brown to the French green and black beluga (which are firmer) to the yellow and orange ones (which are much softer).  I'm talking here about brown.
  • Rinse and sort 3/4 cup to 1 cup of lentils.  And definitely watch for those little rocks.
  • Boil then simmer in approximately 5 cups of water, either to al dente (about 12-15 minutes, for salads) or until tender (20 minutes plus).
  • Make soup, make salads, make pasta, use as meat substitute.  There are as many options as there are lentils in that pot.

My Other Bean Posts

About a Baker's Dozen of My Favorite Bean Recipes
(for others, search my blog for "beans")

Pasta e Lenticchie

This is my all-time favorite go-to recipe (without the hot pepper flakes).  I sometimes use pasta (even spaghetti) but other times couscous or bulgur.  I've used curry or masala instead of parsley or Italian seasonings.  Any tomatoes, from sauce to crushed to diced to chopped, work.  I've added kale, spinach, a variety of other greens, raw or previously cooked. You really just do your own thing, starting with lentils, water, and garlic.  

5 cups water
3/4 cups lentils
2 large cloves garlic, crushed
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup chopped canned plum tomatoes, with some juice
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
1/2 pound vermicelli, or small tubular pasta, or pasta mista
2 rounded tablespoons finely cut or snipped parsley
Optional: extra-virgin olive oil and hot red pepper flakes or hot pepper oil, for garnish

In a medium saucepan, bring the water to a rolling boil, add the lentils, and cook, covered over medium-high heat, until nearly but not entirely tender, about 20 minutes. Add the garlic, the olive oil, the tomatoes, the salt and the pepper. Reduce the heat, cover and continue to simmer briskly for another 10 minutes, stirring a few times, or until the lentils are fully tender.
If using capellini, break it into 2 to 4-inch pieces and add them to the lentils. Cook, coveredat a steady simmer, stirring several times and scraping the bottom of the pot when you do. Cook until the pasta is just done, stirring more frequently as it gets closer to the point of being cooked. If using a small tubular pasta or pasta mista, cook the pasta at least halfway in plenty of salted boiling water. Drain the pasta, add it to the lentils and simmer to finish cooking the pasta.
When pasta is cooked to taste, remove the pot from the heat, stir in the parsley cover the pot, and let stand about 5 minutes before serving. Serve hot, passing hot pepper oil or the best-quality extra virgin olive oil for drizzling on top.

“Molto Mario”

J D's Black Bean Soup

1/2 lb dried black beans, rinsed and sorted
olive oil
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, chopped
4 cups water
1-2 bay leaves (depending on size)
salt, pepper to taste

Prep black beans in your favorite way (either overnight soak, or 5 minute boil and then 1 hour soak). Drain.
Saute onion and garlic in a little olive oil. Add beans, bay leaves, water, salt and pepper. Cook until tender. Adjust seasonings.
DO NOT DRAIN. Puree using immersion or regular blender.
My note: I think you could probably drain the beans and then puree them to make a good black bean dip. Also, this would probably be good with a chopped green pepper, too.



Frijoles Borrachos, or Pinto Beans Stewed in Beer

1 cup chopped tomatoes or lightly drained canned diced tomatoes
2-16 oz cans pinto or pink beans drained and rinsed, or 4 cups cooked pinto or pink beans (about 1 1/2 cups raw. I just used 16 oz).
1/2 cup beer
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro (NOT in my beans!)
4 oz can mild green chilies
3 tablespoons pinto bean seasoning (I picked this up in Texas; not sure what goes in it but will look)

Combine all ingredients and simmer for 30 minutes.

adapted from Nava Atlas's The Vegetarian 5-Ingredient Gourmet


Vegetarian Red Beans and Rice

1 onion, chopped
3-4 stalks celery, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
olive oil
1 lb red kidney beans (Camellia band recommended), rinsed and sorted
8-10 cups water
1-2 bay leaves
1-3 tablespoons Creole Seasoning (I use Tony's)
1/2-1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke

Saute onion, celery, bell pepper, and garlic in olive oil until softened. Add beans, water, and bay leaves. Note: I do not pre-soak or quick soak the beans, just simmer all day--you can pre-soak or quick soak, drain, and then start this recipe if you choose. Boil for 5 minutes and reduce to a simmer for 3-4 hours, or until beans are tender.
When beans are almost at desired consistency, add creole seasoning. Before serving, add liquid smoke. Serve with steamed rice (brown or white, your preference).

Mommy Hungry

Curried Apple Lentil Soup
Update: I added 2 cups of water and probably 1+ teaspoon more salt. I thought it was delicious.

5 cups water
1 cup brown lentils
1 cup red lentils
1 apple, peeled and chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 tablespoon sweet curry powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt

Combine in 3-4 quart slow cooker and cook on LOW for 6-8 hours.

Greek Big Beans

1/4 cup olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups slow cooked beans or two 15.5 oz cans lima or butter beans, drained and rinsed (or actual Greek gigante beans. I wonder if you could use fava?)
28 oz can diced tomatoes, with juices
salt and pepper
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley leaves

Heat oil and cook onion, covered, until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook another minute or so.

Transfer the onion and garlic to a 3 1/2 to 4-quart slow cooker. Add beans, tomatoes, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir. Cover and cook on LOW for 4-6 hours. Just before serving, stir in parsley.

Robin Robertson, Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker

Or, an alternate "fabulous faux fassolia":   I sauteed onions in olive oil, added some garlic when the onions were translucent, then poured in half a can (or less) of tomato sauce, and added the other half of my cooked limas. This was incredible. Both hot and then later in the weekend cold, just like it had been in DC. Mmmmmmm

Red, White, and Greens with Beans Soup

1/2 lb cranberry beans, soaked in salted water overnight

14.5 oz diced tomatoes

1 head garlic, peeled
half bunch of kale, de-stemmed and roughly chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Place beans and their brine in slow cooker. Set on HIGH and cook for 2-3 hours.

Add diced tomatoes, garlic, and kale. Season as necessary. Continue to cook on LOW for 4-6+ more hours.

Mommy Hungry

Risotto e Fagioli
Mama made this for a change of taste. Really yummy, with the surprise pumpkin seeds. This was, I believe, one of our first risottos and soon one of our standbys.

¼ cup finely chopped onion
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves crushed garlic
1 cup Arborio rice
½ cup white wine
4 ½ cups chicken broth
1 cup cooked, drained, small white beans (can use canned but heat in chicken stock)
½ cup roasted pumpkin seeds (roast at 350 for 5-10 minutes)
½ tablespoon sesame oil
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese

 Cook onion and garlic in olive oil until soft. Add 1 cup rice and toss with oil. Add wine, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, cooking over moderate heat until wine has been absorbed. Add 4 ¼ cups broth to the rice, ½ cup at a time. Wait for each addition to be absorbed before adding the next, until the rice is al dente and a creamy sauce develops. Stir in beans, seeds, sesame oil, and cheese.

Fifty Ways to Cook Most Everything

Winter Vegetable Soup

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onion
3/4 cup finely chopped carrot (about 2 carrots)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2-14.5 oz cans Great Northern beans (cannellini), rinsed and drained
1-14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, with liquid
2 cups cubed Yukon Gold potato (about 10 oz)
2 1/2 cups water
2-14.5 oz cans vegetable broth
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1-10 oz package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained, and squeezed dry (she left this out--the right decision, I think)

Heat oil in Dutch oven, over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrot, and garlic; cook, stirring occasionally, 4 minutes or until onion is tender. Stir in tomatoes and next 7 ingredients. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 40 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Add spinach; cover and cook 5 minutes.

Weight Watchers Annual Recipes for Success 2003 (3 pts a cup)

Lentil and Red Pepper Soup

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
4-6 cloves garlic, to your taste, finely chopped
1 teaspoon sweet paprika or pimenton (smoked paprika)
1 large or 2 medium-size red bell peppers, seeded and finely chopped
1 cup dried brown lentils, picked over and rinsed
5 cups water
2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
1 to 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar or red or white wine vinegar, to your taste

In a medium-sized skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring a few times, until they begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Reduce the heat if they begin to brown. Stir in the paprika and allow it to cook for about a minute more. Add the bell pepper and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring a few times, until it jus tbegins to soften. Use a heat-resistant rubber spatula to scrape the vegetables and oil into the slow cooker. Add the lentils and water and stir to combine. Cover and cook on LOW until the lentils are completely soft, 7-9 hours.

Season the soup with salt and pepper and the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Stir in 1 tablespoon of the vinegar, ading more if needed. Serve hot ladled into soup bowls.

Beth Hensperger, Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook

What a Dal

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, cut into pieces
2 garlic coves, peeled
1 teaspoon peeled and minced fresh ginger (I used my zester)
1 teaspoon ground coriander (nope)
1 teaspoon ground cumin (probably 1/2 teaspoon)
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (nope)
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice (nope)
[2 1/2 teaspoons Penzey's sweet curry spice, to make up for missing spices]
1 1/2 cups dried brown lentils, picked over and rinsed (I had 1 cup brown lentils and 1/2 cup red)
1 1/2 cups kidney beans, drained and rinsed
3 cups water
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pour the oil into a 4-quart slow cookier and set it on High.

In a food processor, puree the onion, garlic, and ginger and add it to the cooker (I just used my Pampered Chef chopper to mince it all). Cover and cook to mellow the flavor and remove the raw taste while you assemble the other ingredients. Stir in spices and cook, stirring for 30 seconds.

Turn the setting to Low. Add the lentils, kidney beans, and water; cover, and cook for 8 hours. Before serving, season with salt and pper and adjust the other seasonings if necessary.

Robin Robertson, Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker


No Hurry Vegetable Curry

1 tablespoon peanut oil (I used canola)
2 large carrots, sliced on a diagonal
1 medium-size yellow onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons curry powder
1 teaspoon ground coriander (see above)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (nope, I never add the spicy stuff)
2 large Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced
8 oz green beans, ends trimmed and cut into 1" pieces
15.5 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (or 1 1/2 cups homecooked)
14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, drained (I had crushed)
2 cups vegetable stock
1/2 cup frozen green peas, thawed
1/2 cup canned unsweetened coconut milk

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the carrots and onion, cover and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, curry powder, coriander, and cayenne, stirring to coat.

Transfer to 3 1/2-4 quart slow cooked. Add potatoes, green bearns, chickpeas, tomatoes, and stock; cover, and cook on LOW for 6-8 hours.

Just before serving, stir in peas and coconut milk and season with salt.

from Robin Robertson's Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker


Ethiopian-Inspired Yellow Split Pea Stew

3 cups water plus 2 tablespoons (divided)
1 cup dried yellow split peas
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1 inch-long piece fresh ginger, peeled,
finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
Place 3 cups of the water and the peas in large saucepan. Heat over high heat to boiling. Reduce heat to medium; cook until almost tender, about 30 minutes.
Heat olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat; cook onion until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, ginger and turmeric; cook 1 minute.
Add remaining 2 tablespoons water; cover. Cook on low heat 3 minutes. Add mixture to cooked peas; stir in salt. Simmer until peas are very soft, about 30 minutes. Taste; adjust seasonings.


Lentil-Brown Rice Salad

1 cup lentils, rinsed and picked over
2 cups brown rice, cooked
1/2 cup feta
8 oz can black olives
salt, pepper to taste

Cook lentils in boiling water (unsalted) for approximately 10 minutes or until al dente (or to your liking. I like mine with just a little resistance). Drain and rinse. Add rice, feta, and olives while still warm so that feta partially melts. Season with salt and pepper.

Suggestions have been made for a squeeze of lemon and some fresh herbs like parsley but I haven't tried that yet. I had also considered a splash of balsamic vinegar, next time.


My Adaptation of Seed Savers's Heritage Bean Salad
(for original recipe, see here. I would've used the red onion if I'd had one. I think barley would be good in it, too)

1 1/2 cups dried beans (I used a mixture of heirloom beans from Laurel Hill; Seed Savers calls for Lena Cisco's Birds Egg)

Vinaigrette -
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup sugar
2 t. Dijon mustard (I used spicy brown)
1 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper

Cook dried beans (I soaked them overnight in salt water) by bringing to a boil for five minutes and then simmering for about 1 1/2 hours. Prepare vinaigrette. Add dressing ingredients while beans are still warm. Chill for several hours. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Mommy Hungry via Seed Savers


Mommy Hungry's Rice-Cooker Mujdara

2 cups white rice
2 cups cooked lentils (brown or whatever)
1/4 teaspoons cumin
1 cinnamon stick
1-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons salt, divided
2-4 onions
1-2 tablespoon oil (grapeseed, olive, whatever)

Place rice, lentils, cumin, cinnamon stick, garlic, pepper, and 1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt in rice cooker.  Add water according to machine temperament (my takes about 2 cups for this; Ar-Ma Hungry's hint is to add enough water to cover the rice plus the thickness of one finger horizontal on top of the rice--it works!).  Set to cook white rice.

Meanwhile, heat oil in skillet.  Add onions, sprinkling 1 teaspoon of salt on top, and cook on medium-low to medium heat.  Watch onions and only stir occasionally in order to let them brown.  If they get to dry, add water.  Cook til brown and sweet, about 45-60 minutes. 

When lentil-rice and onions are done, stir together and season to taste.

Mommy Hungry


Jamie’s Beanbag Soup Recipe

2 cups mixed dried beans
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper to taste

Soak dried beans in 6 cups lightly salted water overnight OR boil beans in 6 cups water for 2 minutes and simmer on low for an hour. DO NOT DRAIN.  In olive oil, sauté onion, celery, carrots, and garlic.  Add beans with their liquid to pot with sauteed vegetables and also bay leaf.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until beans are tender, about 1 ½-2 hours. 

Optional:  To bulk up the bean soup, you can: 
                    add spinach or kale (or other greens), fresh or frozen, along with carrots, celery, and onions
                    add ¾ cup dried macaroni (or orzo) when beans are almost done
                    make the soup with ½ the beans (1 cup or so) and add a variety of vegetables like green beans, corn, and potatoes for a vegetable soup

Italian version:  Add 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning with the salt and pepper.  Later, when beans are almost done, add 1 can diced tomatoes.   

French version:  Use Herbes de Provence with salt and pepper.

Slow Cooker directions:  Place presoaked beans and soaking liquid in 6-quart slow cooker.  Sauté  onions, carrots, celery, seasonings, and garlic in olive oil.  Add these, plus bay leaf and optional vegetables except tomatoes, to slow cooker.  Cook on LOW 6-8 hours, adding tomatoes or other acids and/or pasta in last hour.

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