Monday, 15 April 2013

How to Cook...Beans!

I recently wrote that I prefer to cook my beans from dry, so I thought I'd give a little overview of my favourites: chickpeas, red and white kidney beans, turtle beans, plus red and green lentils. These six legumes are definitely huge staples in my diet. At least one is present in most of my dinners - they're filling and delicious, plus they refrigerate and freeze well.

I've mentioned before that I stay away from canned beans because of Bisphenol-A (BPA) - a chemical used to make more durable plastics (water bottles) and epoxy resins (can linings). The long-term effects of BPA on the human body are largely unknown, but governments and regulatory bodies are obviously concerned.

The European Union, Canada and the U.S. have now banned BPA in baby bottles, and the FDA has labeled it a hazard to unborn and young children. In 2010, Canada became the first country to declare BPA a toxic substance, but then flip-flopped in 2012, saying "it is not expected to pose a health risk to the general population".

BPA has become such a ubiquitous part of our lives. In addition to bottles and cans, it's also in cash register receipts, CDs and DVDs, and sports equipment. Studies from the CDC have shown that, in representative samples of American people, 93% have detectable levels of BPA in their urine.

Until there is more concrete information about exactly how BPA is affecting my body, future children and the environment, I'm going to cut out as much exposure as possible.

Anyway, let's get back to beans. Dried beans are awesome, but I think a lot of people avoid them because they're unsure of how to cook them.

All of these legumes can be cooked in plain old water. If you're looking to add a little more flavour, try using vegetable stock as a cooking liquid, or throw a bay leaf, minced garlic, cumin, chili powder, paprika or a thinly sliced hot pepper into the mix.




Let's start with the chickpeas, kidney and turtle beans.

~Rinse 1 cup and soak overnight in a stock pot with 4 cups cold water
~Drain and rinse, then add back to the pot with cooking liquid
~Boil then simmer (partially covered), keeping cooking liquid above beans
~Stir occasionally and check for consistency
~Drain and rinse, then cool and enjoy!


Chickpeas

A.K.A.: garbanzo beans, ceci beans or chana
Cooking liquid: 4 cups
Simmer: 90 minutes
Consistency: slightly soft with skins intact
Yield: 3 cups


Kidney beans, red

A.K.A.: kidney beans or red beans
Cooking liquid: 3 cups
Simmer: 65-70 minutes
Consistency: slightly soft with skins intact
Yield: 2.75 cups


Kidney beans, white

A.K.A.: cannelli beans or white beans*
Cooking liquid: 3 cups
Simmer: 45-50 minutes
Consistency: slightly soft with skins intact
Yield: 2.75 cups

*White kidney beans are not the same as navy beans and Great Northern beans, but they cook similarly and are relatively interchangeable.*


Turtle beans

A.K.A.: black beans or black turtle beans
Cooking liquid: 3 cups
Simmer: 90 minutes
Consistency: slightly soft with skins intact
Yield: 3 cups



Lentils are a little different than other beans. They don't need to soak, and cook much more quickly.

~Rinse 1 cup then add to a medium sauce pan with cooking liquid
~Boil then simmer (partially covered), keeping cooking liquid above lentils
~Stir occasionally and check for consistency
~Drain and rinse, then cool and enjoy! (green lentils only)


Lentils, green

A.K.A.: Indian lentils, German lentils or brown lentils*
Cooking liquid: 2 cups
Simmer: 20-25 minutes
Consistency: slightly firm but not hard or crunchy
Yield: 3 cups

*That's not a typo - these army-green coloured lentils can be labelled as green or brown lentils, depending on where you buy them.*


Lentils, red*

A.K.A.: masoor dal or Red Chief lentils
Cooking liquid: 2 cups
Simmer: 15 minutes
Consistency: soft and mushy
Yield: 3 cups

*Red lentils break down into a fantastic soupy mash when cooked, so draining and rinsing are definitely off the table.*


References: Home Grown Organic Foods & The Cook's Thesaurus