Culinary School: Beans, Beans, Beans!

Beans

We’re all about beans right now! The legume family has over 15,000 species including beans, lentils, peas, and peanuts. Rich in fiber and protein and low on the glycemic index, beans are excellent for blood sugar and weight management and are a budget-friendly protein source. Further, their somewhat neutral flavor makes them a versatile kitchen staple. So, while beans are a key player in my kitchen, I was excited to expand my bean know-how.

Our practicum had us working with the usual suspects (black, canellini, pinto, kidney and navy beans, lentils, split peas, chickpeas, etc) as well as some I had never worked with, such as Great Northern beans, Adzuki beans and black-eyed peas. We simmered, stewed and pureed to make soups, hummus, soups and salads. I used a pressure cooker for the first time and am pleased to report that there were no explosions!

Want some bean cooking tips? Read on!

Bean Practicum

TIPS FOR COOKING BEANS

  • Add Some Salt Early. Add 1/4 teaspoon of salt to the water at the beginning of the cooking. This flies in the face of traditional advice that warns against adding salt until the end to avoid tough beans. The Natural Gourmet Institute chefs tested this and found that a small amount of salt added early on improves the taste without affecting the bean texture. When the beans are nearly done cooking, add more salt.
  • Stir. Stir. Stir. Don’t just put the pot to simmer and walk away. Stir the beans every 10 minutes or so to ensure even cooking.
  • Add Smoky Flavor to Soups -with Tea. We brewed Lapsang Souchong tea and added it to cook beans as the base for black bean soup. This provided a very quick and healthy way to impart an interesting, smoky element to the soup.
  • Store Beans in the Cooking Liquid to Avoid Split Skins. If you won’t be using the beans right away, cook them in a shallow container with their cooking liquid, then store refrigerated with the liquid. By not exposing the beans to air, the skins are less prone to splitting. It’s an easy trick for when you want a dish to look its best.
  • Digestion Issues? No Problem! Simple things like soaking overnight with warm water and adding kombu will greatly improve the digestibility of beans for most people.  How to Cook Digestion-Friendly Beans

OTHER RESOURCES:

Health Benefits of Beans
Why You Should Eat More Beans

How to Cook and Store Dried Beans
Other Ideas for Using Kombu from ‘The Kitchn’

Bean there – done that?!  :  )

What been tips do you have? Please share below!