When you hear the word "beans" you might be reminded of that embarrassing jingle the boys in junior high used to sing. Though, you have to agree, beans are pretty magical - they're delicious and fill you up, and to top it all off they’re a great source of protein. There might be a stack of canned beans in your kitchen cabinet, but beware: these cans often contain a toxic chemical called BPA; there goes your appetite. Here’s a solution: ditch the can and go for fresh, dried beans! Doing it yourself is safer, and have a better flavor when cooked fresh.
You can find different varieties of organic dry beans in the bulk section of natural food markets, and they are also available pre-packaged at most grocers. Here are just a few types of beans: black, red, navy, pinto, kidney, lentils, split peas, chili, mung, fava, lima, adzuki, soy, and garbanzo (aka chickpeas)...I’m getting hungry just writing the list! Whichever bean you prefer, here are some general rules of thumbs on how to prepare them:
- In order to make them easier to digest (*cough* avoid the gas), soak beans in water overnight before cooking. You can even add in a piece of kombu, a sea vegetable, known to prevent gas (can be found at large natural grocers and Asian markets). Here are some bean soaking tips.
- Most beans cook at a ratio of 1 cup dry to 2 cups water, which will yield 2-3 cups. Double check the details on the packaging to determine the needs of the type you’re working.
- Place beans and water over high heat, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer - cook times depend on the variety of bean, and whether or not you soaked them first. Plan for about 15-45 minutes.
- When finished, serve immediately or store for later. They will stay fresh in the fridge for up to 4 days, or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
As for what to do with the beans, you’re on your own. Kidding! Here are some recipes that will have you lovin' legumes as if you've never had them before:
- A New Orleans Classic: Red Beans & Rice
- Butter Bean Salad
- Backyard Brawl Baked Beans
- Stay Cool with Mung Bean Soup
- Arugula & Fava Bean Bruschetta
Image credit: Whitney Lauritsen