Best Recipes with Beans

Beans are packed with fiber, protein, vitamins and versatility. Here are delicious recipes for bean soup, bean cakes, and bean stews.


| February/March 1995



148-081-01

Beans are healthy, delicious and versatile. Learn some new ways to cook these protein-packed powerhouses.


PHOTOS: JUDD PILOSSOFF

All bean jokes aside, it's time to get serious about one of nature's healthiest and most economical foods. And there's no need for bean boredom, since so many different varieties of legumes are available (bet you don't know them all — how about rattlesnake, anasaki or cranberry?) for cooking up a comforting pot of soup for a nippy early spring day. Bean consumption in the United States has increased steadily in the past 10 years to 10 pounds annually per person (in Mexico it's 40 pounds!) and with good reason. The tasty bean is next to wheat bran in fiber, and is rich in B vitamins, zinc, potassium and iron. Packed with amino acids, they're excellent as a high-protein meat substitute. But like all vegetable proteins, the bean protein is incomplete, missing one or two amino acids. This is easily remedied by eating whole grains, brown rice, or a little meat or cheese with the beans to complete the protein.

"Fat-free" by U. S. Department of Agriculture standards, a cup of most varieties of cooked beans contains less than 1 gram of fat (soybeans are the exception). Instead of fat, the bean protein comes packaged with complex carbohydrates that are made up of starches, fiber and complex sugars. Legumes are great for athletes and a perfect weight-watcher food. Since the starches are slow to digest, they stabilize your blood sugar so your hunger pangs are few.

Let's face it, many people experience an undesirable gastronomic effect as a result of eating a bowl of beans. Many other foods, such as the cruciferous vegetables cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower, have the same effect, but it is the bean that possesses the bad reputation. These vegetables and beans contain complex sugars called "oligosaccharide" that the body only digests with some difficulty and some consequences. We can remedy this situation somewhat by soaking the beans and discarding the water, then cooking the beans in fresh water. Rinse canned beans well. If you sprout your beans, the oligosaccharide will be almost totally eliminated. Try legumes that are easier to digest such as lentils, split peas, adzuki beans, limas and black-eyed peas. In cultures where diets are based on beans, people's bodies have a greater tolerance to the bean's complex sugars. So the solution is: the more you eat the less you ... (well, you know).

Cooking Beans

The cooking time for beans will vary depending on the variety, size and age of the beans, the hardness of your water, and the altitude at which you live. The beans will be more plump and tender and require less cooking time if you soak them before cooking. (Lentils, split peas and black-eyed peas don't require soaking.)

Soaking: In a large bowl or pot, put 8 to 10 cups of water for every pound of beans and let them soak overnight. There's been some controversy in our bacteria-conscious society regarding the soaking time for beans. You'll remember all those little bubbles that float on top of the water after an overnight soaking — those bubbles indicate that fermentation (bacteria) has begun. I've been soaking beans overnight for decades and I'm obviously alive and well. But to be on the safe side, especially in hot weather, why not soak the beans 8 to 10 hours and if it must be longer, stick them in the refrigerator. After soaking, drain the beans and add fresh water to the pot. Add a lid and they're ready to cook.

Quick Soak: Bring the beans and water to a boil and cook for two minutes. Remove from the heat, cover, and let stand one to four hours; then cook the beans.





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