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Bean Cuisine

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Bean Cuisine

What can you buy for just two dollars per kilogram that will provide 8 to 10 servings, as well as an abundance of protein, fibre, iron, thiamin, and riboflavin? Dried beans, of course! Also known as legumes or pulses, they provide an essential source of daily nourishment for millions of people.

What can you buy for just two dollars per kilogram that will provide 8 to 10 servings, as well as an abundance of protein, fibre, iron, thiamin, and riboflavin?

Dried beans, of course! Also known as legumes or pulses, they provide an essential source of daily nourishment for millions of people in the Middle East, South America, Asia, and Europe.

But in Canada, beans are often viewed as poor people’s food. Yet what person, rich or poor, doesn’t appreciate a delicious and healthy meal? Beans are the basis of some of the most exotic, satisfying, and easy-to-prepare meals served anywhere. And they’re convenient, too. Health food stores carry a wide range of beans, and they are available dried, canned, and frozen. Some of my favourites are chickpeas, lentils, pinto beans, soybeans, and split peas.

One of the biggest advantages of beans is their low fat content. Peanuts and soybeans are the exceptions, but the fat they contain is largely unsaturated and, like all beans, they’re cholesterol-lowering foods.

For many people, beans are also a primary source of protein. Like other plant proteins, they perform better when served with complementary foods such as grains, nuts, and seeds. When combined with these foods, they make an excellent nutritional match, supplying what the other lacks. Some great combinations include:

  • black beans and rice in a tortilla (Mexican)
  • chickpeas with tahini, falafel (Middle Eastern)
  • beans and whole grain pasta (Italian)

Delicious, easy to prepare, and cost effective, beans are a must in every health-conscious kitchen.

How to Cook Beans

  1. Rinse beans in cold water.
  2. Cover beans with three to four times their volume of water (see cooking chart for water volumes).
  3. Soak for six hours or overnight (skip the soaking for lentils and split peas, but do rinse them).
  4. Discard soaking water. Rinse and add fresh water. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer, partially covered (see cooking chart for cooking times).
  5. Add water as needed to keep beans covered. Do not add salt or other seasonings until beans are tender.

Selection and Storage

Look for beans of a uniform size. Small beans cook faster than large ones, so a variety of sizes will result in uneven cooking–by the time the larger beans are cooked, the small ones will be mush.

Dried beans should have a bright, even colour. Fading means long storage and the possibility that your beans won’t be fresh. The older the beans are, the more cooking time they will need.

Store dried beans at room temperature. They need a dry environment. Cooked beans can be stored in the refrigerator up to one week or in an airtight container in the freezer up to six months.

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