Getting Back to Bean Basics

There tends to be debate over time/convenience/cooking meals quite often on message forums and even within your own home. Many of us lead busy, multi-tasking filled lives that do not allow for proper meal preparation, nutrition, or even just sitting down to eat at all. I find that the act of sitting down to eat a meal in the evening, whether it be at 7PM or at 9:30PM, is relaxing and rejuvenating at the same time.There is certainly something to be said for preparing a meal and enjoying the final outcome- you created it for yourself and family/friends; it was your desire to provide without the ruling hand of someone else leaning over you. Even after a long day at work, the act of cooking can be something that calms us, inspires us, and brings us back to homeostasis. I placed a picture of chickpeas (and an awesome skull shot glass) at the top of this post for the following reasons: 

a) to show that it is easy to master a task that is viewed as unattainable by some
b) to encourage you to adopt more basic, homespun, wholesome elements into your cooking process. 

Recently I became involved in a discussion on a message board regarding cooking beans and fitting it into a weekly/nitely dinner schedule. Many people on the board felt that cooking beans took too much time to invest in on a day to day cooking basis, even though the cost was considerably less expensive for organic dried beans, the taste and texture superior to canned, and added BPA and other chemicals non-existent (I don't need to tell you about BPA's, do I?) . Now allow me to offer up a bit of reality: Frank and I both work full-time jobs and engage in other outside activities as well. Granted we are only providing for the two of us, but time is still a precious commodity. And yet after a whole winter of talking about it last year, we managed to incorporate cooking dried beans into our weekly dinners this year. Here are some time-saving tips and ideas for you to incorporate punk-rock kick-ass home cooked beans into your schedule:

-We buy our beans in bulk, and for organic beans, they are less expensive and fresher than the non-organic Goyas that sit on the shelves for months at a time. Fresh dried beans will cook in very little time, especially with a nice long soak. We soak the beans from the morning when we leave for work (so 7:30), or if we remember, the nite before. This gives the beans at least a solid 10 hours of soaking time. With this amount of time, even chickpeas cook up for us in under an hour.

-Many people will cook beans in a pressure cooker; if that works for you, great. We live in an apartment in Brooklyn, and while decently sized, apartment dwelling keeps unnecessary owning at bay. Thus, we cook them on the stove, the boring way. Stove top cooking is greatly benefited by the use of a cast iron pot that will maintain even heat.

-Cooking beans in bulk and freezing for future use or using them throughout the week is a great way to maximize time. Conversely, if the thought of cooking 2 pounds of beans scares you, or you are the menu-planning type who also leads a busy schedule, figure out a day that is most convenient for you to cook your beans. Some people prefer weekends, etc. That way, when you need the beans later in the week for a quick meal, they are there.

-Start cooking your soaked beans either when you get in from work (you aren't going to start cooking right away, are you?!) or as you start prepping your vegetables, etc for your meal. Most beans do not need to be added until the end of cooking a dish anyways. 
If you put the beans up to cook when you get home, you can do whatever you need to do to unwind, and by the time you start dinner, they should be done. How easy is that? Not only did you just listen to your newly purchased She & Him record, but you have food too! Beans are pretty low key if you allow them to be. And they totally dig records.

-If you are intimidated, start with quick-cooking no-soak beans like lentils, black-eyed peas, and split peas.

So now! Go cook some beans!


Mihl said...
8:51 AM, May 05, 2010

I love beans so much I could never live without them. I usually cook some in bulk and then freeze them. I found this a very convenient way of throwing beans into everything.

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