Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Beans, Beans -- the more you eat

Over the last few days I have been seeing the #beanmonth hashtag on various social media platforms. I can get behind the promotion of this very much, maligned legume. January seems an appropriate month to take on this duty given it is eaten on New Year’s Day, especially in the southern part of the United States, to herald a prosperous year to come. However, with the strength of the Paleo diet fad and it categorizing legumes as forbidden fruit this celebration maybe hard-pressed to ignite even though it is vital to many Meatless Monday meals. I do not put beans in that category and regularly serve up myriad dishes based upon and augmented with this diverse seed -- granted they can cause eruptions of socially embarrassing calls that reduces all of us to sophomoric giggles.

I am not sure why the idea of legumes would not 
be part of the Paleo diet. If Paleolithic man was dragging home a wooly mammoth during a thunderstorm across a field strewn with an uncultivated variety one late summer could that not be considered an early form of a Cassoulet? Why not believe that our ancestors, who had conquered fire, had discovered that cooking them in a liquid would make them more digestible? Today, I always add a knuckle of fresh ginger into the cooking liquid (to be discarded after cooking) believing it helps make the beans a slightly less conversational process. Ginger possesses carminative, anti-flatulent properties that can only help silence some the legumes’ naysayers. Nutritionist will tell you they are powerhouses -- a dynamic part of our diet delivering protein and dietary fiber as well as being low on the glycemic indexes.  Not to mention the cost. In my pantry there will always be a canned, dried and frozen beans. The latter, having been squirreled away from summer’s harvest and are always gone before the spring thaw. The brilliance of dried beans is the multi-year shelf life they offer, however, a bit of fore thought is required because you definitely want to soak most beans for about 8 hours in three times their volume of water before cooking them. But that is why it is a good idea to have a can or two. I am always buying a new variety whenever and wherever I come across them. From creamy to chalky in texture and sweet to meaty in taste there is no reason not   
to have these little dynamos in your repertoire.

So, I see no reason but to let it rip.

Tomato stewed Black Beans – yields 6 servings

1¼-cup dried black beans
1-inch piece of ginger root – cut in half lengthwise
1-teaspoon whole coriander seed
1-teaspoon whole cumin seed
1-can (13.5 ounces) stewed tomatoes
1-tablespoon Mexican achiote paste
5 garlic cloves – chopped
1 medium-sized onions – chopped

Soak the beans in 4-cups of water for about eight hours. Drain the beans, and place in a 2-quart saucepan along with the ginger root. Cover with 4-cups of water, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook the beans for an hour to hour and half – until tender.

Drain the beans, reserving about ½-cup of the cooking liquid. Discard the ginger root.

To the 2-quart saucepan return the drained beans, coriander, cumin, tomato, achiote paste, garlic and onions.  Bring back to the boil, and then reduce the heat to a simmering.  Covered with a lid. Season with salt, and simmer for another hour. 


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