Delicious recipes and tips for cooking with and eating all types of beans
Beans-a nutritious, economical member of the legume family-have, if not a glamorous reputation, a long and illustrious history. The cultivation of beans in Southeast Asia dates back to around 7,000 B.C., and beans were some of the foods ancient Egyptians chose to be buried with, for sustenance in the afterlife. In later times, beans made a cameo appearance in Homer's The Iliad. These days, there are numerous varieties of beans available for cooking and eating: Garbanzo, adzuki, kidney, black, cranberry, lima, pinto, and fava are just a few.
Beans offer many nutritional benefits. For starters, their small size makes them an extremely efficient means of delivering nutrients to the body. High in fiber, protein, complex carbohydrates, minerals, and vitamins, beans play an especially big role when other protein sources are scarce, such as in a vegetarian diet. The characteristically "meaty" texture of beans makes them a great substitute for beef, pork, and chicken in savory dishes like a vegetarian lasagna, yet beans also have a sweet side, shown off in a dish like Bean Pie. By adding taste, texture, and nutrients to many dishes, beans prove an indispensable ingredient and a pantry essential.
- Save Money
Plan your meals in advance and use inexpensive dried (rather than canned) beans. Heirloom varieties like the ones sold through Rancho Gordo will cost a bit more, but their concentrated flavors, shapes, and colors can liven up a dish. And to get the most bang for your buck, try to use your beans soon after purchase; dried beans do age.
- Soak 'Em
When working with dried beans, budget ample time to reconstitute them. Allow ten cups of cold water for every pound of dried beans, and let the beans soak for 12 to 24 hours. Rinse several times before putting the beans in a large pot and covering them with three inches of cold water. Bring the water to a boil, skimming off any rising foam. After a few minutes, lower the temperature and let the beans simmer anywhere from one to two hours, depending on the variety. The reconstitution process is complete when the beans are tender.
- Say "No" to Salt
Don't salt the water when reconstituting beans. Doing so will result in harder, and possibly inedible, beans. Instead, add salt after reconstituting the dry beans and midway through the cooking process.
- Ban Gas
There's no denying it: Some people experience gas due to beans' naturally occurring complex sugars and fiber. One way to combat digestive distress is to eat beans more often. Other ways to reduce gassiness include discarding the soaking water and rinsing the beans several times before cooking; adding coriander or cumin when cooking beans; increasing your fluid intake when beans are on the menu; or taking an enzyme dietary supplement such as Beano. Processed bean dishes such as hummus and refried beans seem easier to digest. Also, since certain beans seem to affect some individuals more than others, determining the best choices for your diet may require some trial and (potential) error.
- Get Canned
Precooked, canned beans generally contain a higher level of sodium than dried beans, so rinse canned beans thoroughly before using them. Add salt to taste only after the beans have been warmed. When substituting canned beans for dry in recipes, the U.S. Dry Bean Council advises that one 15-ounce can equals 1 1/2 cups of cooked dried beans.
Appetizers, Sides & Other Small Bites
- Giant Beans Baked with Roasted Red Peppers and Pastourma
- Black Bean Mussels
- Fresh Cranberry Bean Salad
- Pinto Bean, Tomato and Butternut Squash Soup
- Panfried Tofu with Chinese Black Bean Sauce
- Ful Medames (Egyptian Brown Fava Beans)
- Kidney Bean Salad with Walnuts and Cilantro
- Adzuki Bean Miso Soup
- Cool Jade Soup
- Chickpea Spread
- Slow-Cooked Tomato and Herb White Beans
- Fried Chickpea Polenta (Panelle)
- Navy Bean Gravy
- Pinto Bean Sweet Potato Chili
- Black Bean Chili with Crispy Pork and Poblano Salsa
- Feta, Garbanzo Bean, and Eggplant Pita Sandwiches
- Mexican Poblano, Spinach, and Black Bean "Lasagne" with Goat Cheese
- Moroccan Lamb with Garbanzo Bean Mash
- Vegetarian Cassoulet
- Rava Dosas with Potato Chickpea Masala
- Hoppin' John (Black-Eyed Peas with Kielbasa)
- African Curried Coconut Soup with Chickpeas
- Bean Pie
- Eight-Treasure Puddings
- Oatmeal Chocolate-Chip (and Bean!) Cookies
- Smoke-Roasted Apples with Japanese Sweet Bean Paste
Feta, Garbanzo Bean, and Eggplant Pita Sandwiches
Bon Appétit | February 2005
Yield: Makes 6 halves
These good-for-you sandwiches are low in fat and meatless.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 pound Japanese eggplants, unpeeled, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
- 1 1/2 cups chopped onions
- 1 15 1/2-ounce can garbanzo beans, drained, 1/2 cup juices reserved
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 4 tablespoons chopped fresh mint, divided
- 5 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese, divided
- 3 pita bread rounds, warmed in oven or toasted
Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add eggplant cubes and onions; sauté until soft and beginning to brown, about 9 minutes. Stir in garbanzo beans, cumin, and lemon juice. Sauté until heated through and flavors blend, adding enough garbanzo bean liquid by tablespoonfuls to moisten if mixture is dry, about 4 minutes. Stir in 3 tablespoons mint and 3 tablespoons feta cheese. Season generously with salt and pepper.
Cut pita breads crosswise in half. Spoon eggplant mixture into pita breads. Sprinkle filling with remaining mint and feta and serve.
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By Esther Sung
Photo by Tina Rupp