Beans are so healthy and good for us. However, with everyone working and too busy when we get home, it is not one of those ingredients that you can think about one hour before dinner is served. They require planning ahead and long cooking.
High in protein and fiber, as well as inexpensive, they should never be left out in meal planning. Cooking them might be a good weekend project. Soak the beans overnight and then on Saturday or Sunday, simmer them in water for several hours. You cannot rush the process because if you rush cooking them and don’t simmer them, they could become gummy.
Dried beans are allowed to absorb water and start the hydration process by overnight soaking. This makes for a creamier texture.
I am a firm believer in brining chicken, turkey and pork for a juicier, tastier end product. Beans that are soaked in salted water for 24 hours, when cooked have softer, tender skins. This allows the beans to cook properly and not explode during simmering of the beans. Only 1 1/2 tablespoons of salt for 2 quarts of water per one cup of black beans resulted in beans with skins intact. When cooked without salt the beans look like they have exploded from the inside and the skins are all broken.
The science is all about molecules. Without brining, the strong pectin molecules in the beans’ skin are tightly bound by calcium and magnesium ions. During bringing, the sodium replaces the magnesium ions, causing the glue-like pectin network to break down, softening the skin and preventing exploding beans.
I especially like black beans and have used them in chili rather than kidney beans. I like the smaller size and more delicate flavor. Here is a vegetarian Cuban-style back beans and rice recipe that you could fix for dinner after work if you have one hour. It takes 35 minutes to cook the black beans that have been soaked overnight, then another 30 minutes to bake with the rice. (Sonia Martinez, I hope this recipe is acceptable.)
VEGETARIAN BLACK BEANS AND RICE
Dissolve 1 1/2 tablespoon salt in 2 quarts of cold water in a large bowl and add:
1 cup dried black beans, picked over and rinsed
Soak at room temperature for at least 8 hours or up to 24 hours. Drain and rinse well.
In a Dutch oven, stir together:
Drained black beans
4 cups water
1 large bells pepper, stemmed, seeded, and halved
1/2 large onion, halved from center, peeled, root end left intact
1 head garlic, 5 cloves removed, minced and reserved, rest of head halved in center with skin left intact
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon salt
Bring to simmer over medium-high heat, cover, and reduce heat to low. Cook until beans are just soft, 35 minutes. Using tongs, remove and discard pepper, onion, garlic, and bay leaves.
Drain beans in colander set over a large bowl, reserving 2-1/2 cups bean liquid.
Adjust oven rack to middle position, heat oven to 350 degrees. Place in large fine-sieve strainer and rinse under cold running water until water runs clear, about 2 minutes:
1 1/2 cups long-grain white rice
Shake strainer to remove excess water, set rice aside.
Cut into 2-inch pieces and pulse in food processor until broken into rough 1/4 – inch pieces, about 8 pulses:
1 large bell pepper, stemmed, seeded
1/2 large onion (the other half of the onion used to cook beans)
Place in bowl and set aside.
In the same Dutch oven used to cook the beans, heat:
2 tablespoon olive oil
Chopped peppers and onions (from the food processor)
4 teaspoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano
Cook, until vegetables are softened and beginning to brown.
5 reserved minced garlic cloves
Cook until garlic is fragrant, about one minute.
Add rinsed rice and stir to coat, about 30 seconds.
Stir in beans, reserved 2 1/2 cups bean liquid and:
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
Increase heat to medium-high and bring to simmer. Cover and transfer to oven. Cook until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender, about 30 minutes. Fluff with fork, and let rest, uncovered to 5 minutes. Serve with:
2 green onions, sliced thin
Black beans were first grown in Peru and became a South American staple for centuries. When explorers went to that region, they brought back black beans to Europe in the 1500s.
A complete protein, the dietary fiber in black beans, one cup is 15 grams, supports bowel regulation, maintains a normal cholesterol and blood sugar, it is an important ingredient for a healthy diet.
As we think about South American food and the importance of black beans as their staple ingredient, think about Hawaii Community College’s Bamboo Hale’s country this week: Brazil. Call 934-2591 for reservations starting today through Friday, or call the Cafeteria at 934-2559 for their specials.
Please feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have a question. Bon appetit until next week.