Wednesday, October 6, 2010

How to cook dried and/or shell beans

The borlotti beans I blogged about yesterday. 
Why am I blogging about such a simple thing as how to cook beans? Well, because it is an easy thing to do and I am concerned about the consumption of canned beans. We are just now finding out that the cans that are used in canning are lined with BPA, which is now coming to light as a serious health threat. Even the so-called natural and organic varieties of canned goods are lined with BPA unless they specifically state on the can that they are not.

Another thing about purchasing canned beans is that they frequently aren't cooked completely. Cooking beans completely is the only way to break down the oligosacharides  which are what make beans gassy to some individuals (they do not have that effect on me).

If you are sensitive to beans and find that they make you gassy, you can try a few things to help minimize the discomfort. Some people soak their beans prior to cooking, which makes them slightly more digestible. According to Rick Bayless, Mexican cooks never presoak their beans. The option is up to you.

Also, you can try a product called Beano. Better yet, I understand that Beano is made from epazote, which is an herb commonly used in Mexican cooking. Many times it is added to the bean pot or chopped and used in a similar way as cilantro. Epazote is an annual but commonly reseeds itself.

So, back to cooking beans. Here's how I do it:
-give the beans a once over to look for stones or dirt clods.
-rinse them
-place them in a pot with about 2" to cover
-bring to a boil
-reduce heat to simmer
-make sure to keep an eye on the pot to verify that there is enough cooking liquid
-cook until the beans are completely tender and creamy. there should be no crunch or chalkiness when you taste them
-once the beans are tender, then you can add salt. don't do it before hand, as salt will make the beans tough

Both Ed and I like plain beans. Of course, we enjoy them in dishes or refried, but if time is an issue a bowl of beans is a quick, satisfying meal. I like mine with the broth, like this:


Ed likes his beans without broth. Yesterday he added a slice of cheese, like this:

An alternative to canned beans is to use frozen beans, like I do with my garbanzos for falafel. I freeze mine in freezer safe mason jars and thaw them in the fridge, under hot water, or in the microwave.