GOD-DESS

Simple! Sensible! Sensational!®

March 2003
© 2003 by Bret S. Beall

Beans, legumes, pulses: an entire world of deliciousness!

I don’t think that there is a single country on the planet that does not include some member of the legume family in its cuisine (if you know of one, please e-mail me). Rightly so, too, because these little treasures are affordable, easy to store, easy to use and delicious! Sadly, lots of people complain about the gastrointestinal effects of eating beans and their relatives (“Beans, beans, the musical fruit!”). There are only three answers to these people: First, make sure you cook beans thoroughly; they contain certain sugars and carbohydrates that humans have difficulty digesting unless broken down by heat. Second, chew your food better! You would be surprised how much better you are able to digest EVERYTHING if you just chew better, longer and more slowly … taste and enjoy your food. Third, eat more beans! Yes, they have a lot of fiber, and if your body is not accustomed to handling fiber, you will react. Take this as a sign that your body needs more fiber! If you are getting the correct amount of fiber in your diet, your body won’t react. Let your body tell you what it needs. And while you are doing that, remember that this is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month (see Senses of Living Holidays for March 2003), and eat a few beans for your health!

There are so many recipes out there that just seem somewhat disjointed. After this month of Simple! Sensible! Sensational! recipes, they won’t be so disjointed. My approach to cooking is reminiscent of the old sketch from Saturday Night Live, parodying late night commercials: “It’s a floor wax! No, it’s a dessert topping!” That approximates my approach to cooking, and it is exemplified in these legume recipes: a single recipe can be a side dish, a burrito or quesadilla filling, a bruschetta topping, a pasta/rice sauce, a soup base, a dip for chips or veggies (or fingers), a sandwich spread, a bed for sliced meat or poultry or fish. There is no limit to how these powerhouses of health can be added to your diet.

This month, because I am trying to show the relationships of disparate recipes, I’m going to bypass the basic cooking of dried beans and other legumes in favor of using canned products. I usually prefer cooking my own dried beans because they have so much more flavor, so I’ll address “Basic Beans” in the future. Meanwhile, watch the sales at your neighborhood markets, and stock up on chickpeas/garbanzos, kidney beans, black beans, and great white Northerns/cannellinis. Plus, since it’s spring, see if you can locate some fresh peas or fava beans to make the delicious green sauce below (Roman Beans). Realize, too, that different brands of the same types of beans will sometimes have different flavors; the amounts of seasonings that I present are guidelines, so if your beans are unusually bland, increase the seasonings. Also remember to rinse and drained canned beans prior to using.

As you work through these recipes, please consider the following:

1. Beans are great hot, cold or at room temperature.
2. Beans have a natural affinity for garlic.,
3. Beans are delicious for breakfast, lunch, dinner or as a late night snack.

Hummus

If you use canned chickpeas (also known as garbanzos), this entire recipe can be prepared without any heat, making it the perfect summer dish.

Press the chickpeas through a food mill or potato ricer, collecting the pressings in a bowl; periodically, clean the sturdy pieces out of the mill or ricer, and add them to the pressings for a nice texture. To the pressed chickpeas, add the remaining ingredients, and stir together until mixed. Alternatively, all of the ingredients can be placed in the bowl of a blender or food processor; blend/process until smooth, and turn out into a bowl.

Hummus is traditionally served at room temperature with a drizzle of exceptional olive oil on top, but it is delicious even without the extra olive oil. I serve it with crudités, crackers, pita triangles, lavash or good crusty bread, with such accompaniments as roasted red peppers, capers, olives (both black and green), toasted pine nuts or walnuts, a few whole cooked chickpeas, and even hot sauce. I have kept frozen hummus for at least a year.

Variations: I have seen so many versions of hummus, it is mind-boggling. What is mind-boggling is that some people seem to think they’ve created a new recipe, when actually, it is just a variation on a theme. Here are some of those variations:

Spicy Hummus: When I was first introduced to hummus while in high school, the woman who shared it with me had just returned from Israel where a splash of hot sauce is often used. Since then, I have often incorporated some spicy element directly into the hummus, such as 1 t chile powder, 1 T hot sauce, or for a smoky AND spicy version, add 1 finely minced chipotle chile (canned, in adobo sauce).

“International Hummus”: All this recipe involves is substituting other legumes for chickpeas, leaving out the tahini if desired, and possibly replacing the lemon juice with lime juice, orange juice, wine vinegar or balsamic; olive oil can be replaced by clarified butter (ghee), toasted sesame oil or any other fat (lard is a popular and tasty addition in Mexico and elsewhere). Parsley, cilantro, celery tops, dill and other herbs can be added for flavor and color. Chopped olives, chopped roasted red peppers, capers, chopped dill or sweet pickles, chopped peperoncini, and other condiments can be added for flavor, color and texture. Keeping chickpeas (and calling them garbanzos) but replacing the lemon with lime and adding cilantro and maybe 1 T smoked paprika says “Spain” to me. Black beans (with lime or orange) often say, “Cuba.” Pinto or kidney beans (with lime or orange, and some cilantro, and don’t forget the chipotle) remind me of Mexico. Cannellini beans with (balsamico and a bit of rosemary) proclaim “Tuscany” better than almost any other ingredient. Mash some steamed edamame (soy beans) with ginger, some rice wine vinegar and toasted sesame oil for a Japanese version.

Applications:

To avoid redundancy, see the applications below for Every Day Beans. These versions of hummus can be used in virtually all of the same ways.

Every Day Beans

Theoretically, this recipe is identical to hummus, except that all of the ingredients are cooked and heated up (they may be chilled later, though!). They can be left whole, or mashed, or somewhere in between. I call them “Every Day Beans” because, with so many variations and applications, you can eat them daily and not even realize it!

In a heavy pan, heat the olive oil or other fat over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté for about 1 minute (this is the Italian aglio e olio, a foundation of many recipes, Italian or not). Add the cooked beans and stir to incorporate. Add the citrus juice or vinegar, and the water. Stir to combine. Allow to heat through, and serve immediately, or at room temperature, or chilled. These beans, all of their variations, and many of the applications can be frozen for at least a year. Keep them on hand for quick meals and meal enhancements.

Variations:

Every Day Beans and Greens: when the beans are added to the sautéing garlic, add 1 lb of your favorite greens, well washed and cut into coarse strips, about 4 c. I like to add spinach, kale, collards, mustard or mixed greens. This is one of the simplest and healthiest preparations you can imagine, as well as one of the most beautiful. For, Every Day Beans, Greens and Toms, add 1 c of diced tomatoes (or chopped roasted tomatoes) or 1 c of tomato sauce (one 8 oz can) to Every Day Beans and Greens (or just add the tomatoes to Every Day Beans). Below, wherever “Every Day Beans” are mentioned, they can be substituted with Every Day Beans and Greens or Every Day Beans, Greens and Toms for exceptional results (and a little more variety and nutrition).

Every Day Bean Mash: I would like to call this “Bean Puree,” but that implies an even consistency which can only be achieved with a blender or food processor, and I’m not about to encourage you to dirty some more dishes for a pile of mashed beans … do as I do, and tell your fellow diners that you worked very hard to obtain the particular irregular texture of the beans, and that this is the “authentic” way to prepare beans (everyone loves the word “authentic”). Anyway, take Every Day Beans, still in the sauté pan, and start mashing them with a fork until you get the desired consistency (and reduce your stress level). See these additional variations for delicious options:

Frijoles Refritos: My friend Lynne inspired my first experiments with frijoles refritos (refried beans) when we were undergraduates. She used pinto beans then, so I use pinto beans now or sometimes kidney beans. I follow the recipe for Every Day Bean Mash, using lime juice for the “sour” element, but adding about 1 t of ground cumin, and maybe some chopped cilantro at the end (about 2 T). If you can find it, 1 T finely chopped epazote gives an authentic flavor (you can increase the amount, but see if you like it first; epazote is somewhat of an acquired taste). For an extra spicy and smoky kick, add 1 T of your favorite chile powder, or one finely minced chipotle chile in adobo sauce to the mix.

Frijoles Refritos Negro: This recipe is inspired by the refried black beans that Rick Bayless serves at his Frontera Grill in Chicago. Redolent of garlic, his beans are magnificent. To achieve a similar result, follow the recipe for Every Day Bean Mash, using black beans and doubling the amount of garlic. From there, follow the recipe for regular Frijoles Refritos. If you serve these to other people, please warn them about the abundance of garlic (and chile powder or minced chipotle, if you add it)!

Southwestern Ranch Beans: Follow the recipe for Every Day Beans or Every Day Bean Mash, using pinto or kidney beans, some bacon fat instead of olive oil, beer or lime juice instead of the lemon juice, and adding up to 1 t ground sage or 1 T whole leaf dried sage (crumbled between your hands). You can also add 1 T of your favorite chile powder, or one finely minced chipotle chile in adobo sauce. Leave the beans intact, or mash them.

Tuscan Beans: Follow the recipe for Every Day Beans or Every Day Bean Mash, using cannellini beans, extra-virgin olive oil, lemon juice or balsamic vinegar or red wine vinegar, and adding 1 t ground rosemary (or a little more if the rosemary is dried and whole, being sure to break up the leaves by rubbing them between your palms or smashing them in a mortar and pestle). Adding about 1 t red chile flakes is also appropriate. Leave the beans intact, or mash them.

Roman Beans: Follow the recipe for Tuscan Beans, but use fresh fava beans instead of cannellinis. Use lemon juice as the sour element. Add 2 T fresh mint in a fine chiffonade, or 1 T dried crumbled mint. Leave the beans intact, or mash them. Be tempted by knowing that this dish is a beautiful green color, so festive for spring. (NOTE: there is actually a type of spotted bean that is sometimes called a Roman bean; it has nothing to do with this recipe, but would still taste delicious prepared in the general method of Every Day Beans). (NOTE 2: try replacing the fava beans with fresh or frozen peas … delicious, and just as beautiful).

Japanese Beans: Follow the recipe for Every Day Beans or Every Day Bean Mash, using fresh (or frozen) edamame (soybeans), with toasted sesame seed oil, some rice wine vinegar, and about 1 t finely minced fresh ginger along with 1T garlic. Leave the beans intact, or mash them.

Cuban Beans: Follow the recipe for Every Day Beans, using black beans, olive oil, lime juice and garlic, plus a couple of bay leaves or 1 t of ground bay leaves (laurel molido in Hispanic markets). These are best left whole rather than mashed, but they are your beans, so do anything you want with them!

Applications:

Beans and Rice/Mores y Cristianos/congri: Combine one part of any type of Every Day Beans with one part of steamed rice (preferably white, if you want to be traditional). If you use Cuban Beans, you can call the dish Mores y Cristianos or congri. Serve with hot sauce or finely minced fresh chiles. The beans and rice can be completely mixed, or the beans can be served on top of the rice, or the rice can be served on top of the beans.

Jamaican Beans and Rice: Combine one part Every Day Beans (made with kidney beans or pigeon peas), olive oil, lime juice, garlic and a couple of bay leaves or 1 t of ground bay leaves (laurel molido) with one part steamed rice (preferably white). To every 2 cups of bean-rice mixture, add ½ can (1 scant cup) coconut milk. Stir to combine (sometimes this preparation tends to be gloppy and sticky, so you may need to add some additional water to loosen it). Serve as a main course or with some sautéed greens with shrimp and the remaining cup of coconut milk (kallaloo). Jerk Chicken or Jerk Pork also goes well with these beans.

Pasta sauces: one batch of Every Day Beans or Every Day Bean Mash will sauce a full pound of pasta. I prefer to use the Mash, and to loosen it with the pasta cooking water, to create a creamy sauce that coats every piece of pasta. Top with some grated hard cheese, and you have a fantastic meal. An interesting aside, some diet specialists refer to a similar preparation as a sort of Alfredo Sauce; in my opinion, it isn’t, but it is still delicious, and it is much healthier than the original Alfredo Sauce (which is also very delicious, and good for an occasional treat).

Soups: to a batch of Every Day Beans or Every Day Bean Mash, add one to two cups of stock or milk, stir to combine, and heat thoroughly. A bay leaf or two will add additional flavor. Serve with crusty bread. Adding about ½ to 1 c diced ham, leftover chicken, beef or pork roast, lamb chops, cooked sausage or other meat will result in a heartier soup/chowder.

Pasta e Fagioli: To one batch of Tuscan or Roman Beans (left whole), add two to three cups of stock and one cup of small pasta (elbows, ditalini, shells, cavatappi, rotini, or your favorite; spaghetti-like pastas do not work well). Add 1 t dried oregano, and simmer until pasta is tender, about 10 minutes. A generous grating of hard cheese is an optional but excellent addition.

Bean Dip: Any of the versions of Every Day Bean Mash can be used as a dip for crudités, chips of any kind, pita quarters (toasted or not) or firm bread. Loosen the Mash with a bit of water, stock or citrus juice to loosen the mixture, and consider grating some of your favorite cheese on top. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Burrito/Wrap Filling: Burritos and wraps can be made with either corn or flour tortillas, but I prefer flour because they don’t require the additional step of frying (with or without oil) that is necessary to use corn tortillas (sometimes I wrap corn tortillas in a towel and microwave them for quicker, easier handling). Spread any of the Every Day Bean Mashes down the center of a tortilla, and top with any of the following: sour cream, scrambled eggs, cooked sausage (any kind), leftover chicken, leftover turkey or smoked turkey, leftover or freshly cooked chopped/sliced meat, leftover or freshly cooked and flaked fish, canned tuna (in oil or water), smoked salmon/gravlax, caviar (I particularly like Collins Caviar from Chicago) chopped olives, capers, leftover or freshly cooked chopped vegetables (root, leafy, fruits [like tomatoes] or other), salsa, hot sauce, mustard, chopped chiles, chopped or slivered olives, toasted nuts, slivered lettuce (romaine or other non-iceberg, please), leftover veggies, grated cheese of any kind. Roll up the burrito/wrap and eat it, or microwave for a minute or two, or bake at 350 degrees for about 5 minutes (if you use lettuce in your burrito, please don’t heat it).

Quesadilla Filling: Quesadillas are a sort of tortilla sandwich, created by folding a tortilla in half over fillings, or covering one tortilla with fillings, and placing another on top. The resulting sandwich can be cooked on a grill, or in a large dry skillet over high heat (oil is not needed to cook quesadillas, contrary to many recipes), turning once. Spread any of the Every Day Bean Mashes over half a tortilla (if folding over) or an entire tortilla (if topping with another tortilla), and add any of the fillings listed for Burritos/Wraps. Cook and serve whole, or cut into wedges.

Bruschetta Topping: Bruschetta is grilled or pan-seared crusty bread (Italian, French, sourdough, or any sort of peasant bread) that has been rubbed with garlic. Every Day Beans can be piled on top of a piece of bruschetta (delicately, so that the bruschetta can be eaten by hand, or doled on heavily so that the beans flow over the edges of the bread and onto the plate, for an exceptional first course). Every Day Bean Mash can be spread on the bruschetta. Additional toppings, like roasted red peppers, salsa, anchovies, tapenade, chopped olives, capers or anything else that suits your fancy, can be added for really extravagant presentations. These bruschetta variations can be used to accompany pasta or green salads or soups or pasta e fagioli or even another main course.

Sandwich Spread or Filling: Every Day Bean Mash of any variety can be used as a substitute or addition to mayonnaise or mustard on sandwiches with other fillings, or as the filling itself (between slices of bread, in pitas, on crackers, or similar). Use one of the crusty rolls called bolillos available in Hispanic markets to make the traditional Mexican sandwiches called tortas, which often include (in addition to beans) tomatoes, shredded lettuce, cheese, various meats, pickled onions or chiles, and maybe a sprinkle or two of Mexican oregano (similar to Italian oregano, but bolder).

Bean “Blinis”: OK, these aren’t blinis, they’re just “bean cakes” or “bean patties,” but doesn’t “Bean Blini” have a better sound to it? To one cup of Every Day Bean Mash, add one egg, ½ t salt and several grinds of black pepper; 1 t chile, some chopped green onion, and some roasted garlic are optional. Mix thoroughly with a fork or spoon. In a frying pan on medium-high heat, heat ¼ c oil (with a high smoking point, like peanut or canola). Drop the bean-egg mixture into the oil by spoonfuls (about 1 rounded T per blini), flatten slightly, and cook until brown on the bottom. Turn with a spatula and continue frying until second side is browned. Drain on a paper towel and serve hot. These are great served with a tossed salad, crumbled over pasta, as a bed for meats (see below), or just as a snack! Top them with smoked salmon, gravlax, caviar, cheese, roasted red peppers, or any of the burrito/wrap fillings, and use them as appetizers or hors d’euvres. These “Bean Blinis” can also be wrapped and frozen, but they will lose something texturally.

Bed or Sauce for sliced meat or poultry or fish or eggs or vegetables: Every Day Beans or Every Day Bean Mash can serve as a bed for any sort of pan-fried, seared or roasted meat, poultry or fish. Every Day Bean Mash, if loosened with a bit of water or stock, can be used to sauce any of these meats, poultry or fish. You can also drape some spoonfuls of Every Day Beans over these meats, poultry or fish, such as described above for Bruschetta. Another favorite use is to use either form of the beans as a base for a fried or poached egg, then top it with your favorite salsa (roja o verde), some grated cheese, and you have Huevos Rancheros. Try topping some steamed broccoli or other vegetables with some of these flavorful beans, or just serve the beans beside some green vegetables to offset the abundance of protein!

Toss these dishes with some chopped parsley, and Voila! You have a $30 restaurant entrée for less than $5 (even less than $1 if you buy the ingredients on sale, and stick with vegetables).

Can these recipes be any easier? I hope you’ll try several of them. I’m not good with factorials, but I’d estimate that there are about two years’ worth of recipes in this month’s column if you try one variation every day. Can you imagine how much healthier and happier you will be after those two years? Or even after one week? Use several of these while entertaining, and you’ll be a big hit among your guests (and not break the bank). I know I’ve put more than a few smiles on diners’ faces with these recipes! You can, too!

 

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