By: Tanya Ward Goodman
I’m bean crazy, lately. (Not to be confused with the phrase “I’ve been crazy, lately.” Although that might, occasionally be equally applicable.) It’s the humble legume that’s got me in a buzz.
Earlier this year, in an effort to slow down our meat consumption, drop a little post holiday weight and save on groceries, I bought a bag of pinto beans. I soaked the first batch overnight, because that’s what my mom used to do. The next day, when I cooked them, they were mushy and flavorless. That’s when I realized that my mom lives at 8,000 feet. Up on her mountain, it feels like water takes a week to come to a boil.
Here, at sea level, all the beans need is a quick soak. For my next batch, I brought them to a boil and then turned off the heat and let them sit for an hour. Cooked with a little onion and garlic, these beans were miles ahead of the first. We ate them with rice and a little salsa for lunch, we wrapped them in tortillas with avocados and cheese for dinner.
The next time I hit the bulk bin, I let a cascade of shiny, black beans rattle into my bag. They cooked up beautifully with toasted cumin and chopped carrots. Pureed they were soup, mashed they made a great filling for quesadillas.
I sought out the tiny, olive colored mung bean after having a huge bowl of mung bean and rice stew at Golden Bridge Yoga. The stew, which is also called Kitcheree, is a heady mix of curry, rice, mung beans and vegetables. Because it is all cooked down together, it is easily digested and may be one of the most perfect and warming foods on the planet.
Garbanzo beans (or chick peas) are an amazing addition to pasta with cauliflower, carmelized onion and a little bacon. They add great crunch to rocket salads and pair beautifully with carrots, roasted squash or lamb. Ground garbanzo flour can be mixed with water and cooked in a hot oven to make a socca cake, which is a protein filled crust for pizza toppings or just a drizzle of honey.
A few days ago, a small, heavy box arrived in the mail. Inside were bags of heirloom beans with fantastic names. The Mayacoba bean, the Yellow Indian Woman Bean, Christmas Limas and Good Mother Stallard. An amazing bounty.
This morning, while storm clouds still sat low over the mountains, I gave the Good Mother Stallard beans a short soak. A while later, the smell of sautéed onions, garlic and celery took up where the morning coffee had left off.
At midday, my husband and I ate these plump, dark red and white striped beans over a bowl of brown rice. Sweet and incredibly tender, they were the ideal food for the calm center of our day.