Available in a variety of colors and sizes, beans provide comforting nourishment.
By Lisa James
The days are dark, full of wind, wet and cold. You don’t mind—your kitchen is cozy and fragrant thanks to a bean stew merrily bubbling on the stove.
Besides being easy to grow and dry, beans provide a protein/complex carbohydrate combination that sustained our ancestors through winters in which central heating and supermarkets were unheard of. Bean fiber helps curb cholesterol and normalize bowel function. Beans also supply various minerals along with B vitamins, especially folate and vitamin B1.
Dried beans come in hundreds of varieties: large white cannellinis from Italy, small red adzukis from Japan, speckled pintos from Peru. But “beans are more alike than they are different—the same basic cooking methods apply,” says Crescent Dragonwagon, author of Bean by Bean (Workman).
Almost all dry beans needed to be soaked before cooking. (Adzuki and mung beans, split and black-eyed peas, and lentils are exceptions.) “Soaked beans cook in about a third of the
time unsoaked and their texture is uniformly creamy,” says Dragonwagon. Pick through for small rocks and other debris, and rinse before soaking either overnight at room temperature or
in the refrigerator, using a pressure cooker or covered for an hour after a five-minute boil. (The soaking water washes out a lot of the gassiness.) Canned beans are useful when you’re in a rush. Dragonwagon cautions against adding salt or anything acidic until the beans are tender to avoid toughening the skins.
Let winter do its worst. With a pantry full of beans, your house will always feel like a home.
(Greek White Bean Soup-Stew)
1 1/2 cups white beans (gigandes, Great Northern, navy, cannellini or large limas),
picked over, rinsed, soaked overnight and well drained
2 bay leaves
8 cups water
2 carrots, sliced into
1 large onion, chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, chopped
4 stalks celery with leaves, chopped
1 can (14.5 oz) chopped plum tomatoes with juice
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp dried oregano (optional)
1-2 tsp dried mint (optional)
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tbsp minced fresh parley
salt and pepper, to taste
1. Place the beans, bay leaves and water in a large soup pot over high heat. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer 30 minutes. Remove bay leaves.
2. Add carrots, onion, garlic and celery; simmer another 30 minutes. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, oregano and/or mint, olive oil and salt and pepper to taste (try starting with 1 tsp salt). Simmer until beans are soft and creamy, but not quite disintegrating (30 minutes more).
3. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly. Adjust seasonings to taste; serve warm or at room temperature, with parsley and drizzle of extra olive oil. Good with crusty bread and sautéed slices of haloumi cheese.
Serves 6. Analysis per serving: 326 calories, 13g protein, 13g fat (2g saturated), 16g fiber, 42g carbohydrate, 445 mg sodium
Reprinted with permission from Bean by Bean: A Cookbook by
(Workman, February; preorder at www.amazon.com)
The Best Vegetable Hash
3 fist-sized potatoes, scrubbed well (peeled or not, as you desire), cut into 1/2” (or smaller) dice
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
1/2 green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and diced
2 stalks celery, with leaves, diced
1 tomato, diced (optional)
1 stalk broccoli, head cut into small florets, stem peeled and diced
1 can (15 oz) red kidney beans, drained well
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
Grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese, for serving (optional)
Poached eggs (1 to 2 per person), for serving (optional)
Ketchup, tabasco or similar hot sauce, and/or salsa, for serving (optional)
1) Fill a medium-sized saucepan halfway with water and bring to a boil. Drop in the potatoes and lower the heat to a brisk simmer.
2) While the potatoes simmer, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and the moment it thins, add the onion. Sauté, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Lower the heat a tad, add the carrots, green pepper and celery, and sauté until the vegetables are slightly tender, another 5 minutes. Stir in the tomato, if using.
3) Taste a potato; it should be almost or just barely done. Place the broccoli in a colander in the sink (or over a bowl, if you want to catch the potato-cooking liquid for use in a stock—always a good idea) and drain the potatoes over the broccoli (thus precooking the broccoli slightly). Drain the broccoli and potatoes very well, shaking the colander, and add them to the skillet (which you have been continuing to stir at intervals).
4) Continuing to stir the sautéing vegetables regularly, place the kidney beans in a food processor and pulse-chop, pausing to scrape down the sides, until you have a textured puree. Alternatively, you can place the beans in a large bowl and mash them to this same texture with a potato masher.
5) Stir the mashed beans into the sautéing veggies, which will almost immediately thicken up and want to stick. Keep stirring until the mixture is thicker, thick enough so you could shape it into cakes if you were so inclined, 1 to 2 minutes more. Season it with salt and pepper to taste.
6) Serve immediately, hot; if you like, with a sprinkle of grated cheddar, a poached egg or two, and ketchup, hot sauce and/or salsa on the table.
Serves 4. Analysis per serving: 301 calories, 10g protein, 7g fat (1g saturated), 11g fiber,
53g carbohydrates, 310 mg sodium
Reprinted with permission from Bean by Bean:
A Cookbook by Crescent Dragonwagon
(Workman, February; preorder at www.amazon.com)