The Basics of Cooking with Beans

My new cooking goal is to master the craft of cooking dried beans. This should be simple but my past experience resulted in soft, mushy or mealy beans but then I stumbled upon the website, Rancho Gordo. It inspired me to start cooking dried beans and to stop opening a can. Rancho Gordo beans are beautiful, heritage varieties that are freshly dried, nothing like the ones that sit on store shelves for decades. I ordered flageolet, cassoulet and  a beautiful red bean called Sangre de Toro, as well as their Heirloom Bean cookbook. Beans are one of the most nutritious (and inexpensive) foods you can eat yet most of us eat very few of them. Beans can be incorporated into so many dishes and they are an excellent, high-fiber protein substitute for meat. My family recently gave me a pressure cooker to help speed up the process of cooking beans, which it does beautifully, but I’ve found that when cooking with fresh dried beans like those from Rancho Gordo, the process is fast and easy. Here’s Rancho Gordo’s foolproof method of cooking dried beans.

Rancho Gordo Basic Bean Cooking

Step 1   Rinse 1 cup of dried beans in cool water, checking for debris. Cover the beans by about an inch of water. Soak for 4 hours. Note: If using fresh, dried beans like those from Rancho Gordo, you don’t need to soak them, they will just take a little longer to cook. 1 cup of dried beans will yield 3 cups cooked.

Step 2   Using a large soup pot or Dutch oven, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and saute 1 chopped onion, 1 minced clove garlic, 2 chopped carrots, 2 chopped celery, 1 bay leaf and 1 teaspoon dried oregano for about 4 minutes. Add beans and soaking liquid or dried beans and about 4 cups of water, enough to cover beans by 1 inch.

Step 3   Bring to a boil. Keep at a boil for 10-15 minutes. Reduce heat to a gentle simmer, cover, with lid ajar, and cook for 1-1 ½ hours. If the water gets too low, add hot water. Add 1 teaspoon of salt toward the end of cooking time.

Step 4   You can store beans in their cooking liquid for up to 5 days in the refrigerator or drain the beans and freeze for several months. Save the bean cooking liquid to use in soups and sauces.

Nutrition Note: The Dietary Guidelines for a Mediterranean Eating Pattern recommends 1-2 cups of legumes per day.

Legumes include kidney beans, pinto beans, white beans, black beans, garbanzo beans (chickpeas), lima beans (mature, dried), split peas, lentils, and edamame (green soybeans).

Legumes are excellent sources of protein. In addition, they provide other nutrients that also are found in seafood, meats, and poultry, such as iron and zinc. They are excellent sources of dietary fiber and of nutrients, such as potassium and folate that also are found in other vegetables.

Because legumes have a similar nutrient profile to foods in both the protein foods group and the vegetable group, they may be thought of as either a vegetable or a protein food and thus, can be counted as a vegetable or a protein food to meet recommended intakes.

Green peas and green (string) beans are not counted in the legume subgroup, because their nutrient compositions are not similar to legumes. Green peas are similar to starchy vegetables and are grouped with them. Green beans are grouped with the other vegetables subgroup, which includes onions, iceberg lettuce, celery, and cabbage, because their nutrient content is not similar to legumes.


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