Tag Archives: Beans

Bean Prep: Sorting and Rinsing

Beans seem to be a recurring topic here, but why not?  They’re frugal, nutritious, and so versatile.  And they can even be sprouted for more nutrition – but that’s another post.  Today I just want to talk about the prep work involved BEFORE the cooking starts.

 

For my non-bean-converted friends: are you intimidated by the steps involved in preparing beans?  Or do you just think you don’t like the taste? 

 

I wish I had some great segue here, but I don’t – I really just hope to remove the intimidation.  I’ve loved beans ever since I can remember, so I can only urge you to keep trying them different ways.  Baked beans, chicken tortilla soup, and white chili are some ideas to get you started.  And you already like hummus, right?

 

If you’re new to using dried beans, sorting might be the most confusing step.  It doesn’t take long, and it can be kinda fun (especially if you have some OCD tendencies.)  There are many ways you can do this, but here are some methods I’ve used in the past:

 

– Take small handfuls and inspect carefully

 

– Spread the beans out in one layer on the counter or in a large flat pan with sides (like a jelly roll pan) so you can see all the beans (and any foreign objects) all at once

 

– If you’re using a slow cooker, you can pour the beans onto the clear glass lid and spot the misfits pretty easily (although you can’t tell in this picture):

 

lid-with-beans

 

Here are a few things I sorted out of some pintos awhile back:

 

beans-and-pebbles1

 

Those black pebbles are commonly found in a lot of beans, but you DEFINITELY want to fish them out – the one time I didn’t sort my beans, I ended up with a really gritty-tasting soup because those pebbles are concentrated field dirt.  I usually find more in black beans than any other type of bean – maybe they’re sorted with optical scanning equipment so they get by because they appear to be beans?  That’s my theory anyway.

 

I also look for beans that are small and shriveled, excessively dirty (like a black spot covering a whole side of a white bean), or otherwise look old and mishandled.  Beans that are old won’t cook as well and won’t taste as good.

 

The next step – rinsing – is fairly straight forward.  You can put the beans into a large sieve or colander and run under the tap to clean them well.  This is not optional, unless you’re cool with consuming a nice layer of “field dust,” which could include insect droppings, dirt, etc.  A good rinse will remove a lot of this, and the next step should remove the rest.

 

Soaking — the final step — is also easy, but requires a little more forethought.  It becomes mindless pretty quickly, though, once you work all of this into your  weekly kitchen routine.  I will discuss this in more detail in another post.

 

Do you have a favorite bean recipe?  I’m always looking for new ones!

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Pasta e Fagioli

We’re eating from the cupboards this week, and pasta e fagioli is right in line with that! 

 

Traditionally a peasant food, this soup is always made with pasta and beans (hence the literal translation of the name).  I’m not a huge pasta fan – mainly a textural issue, and it’s also pretty nutritionally devoid – but I had some leftover macaroni from my Christmas mac and cheese side dish contribution, and this is the only thing I could stomach it in.  The combination of ingredients here is very flexible and reflects what I had in the house today.

 

The pasta overtook the dish, but I promise there are lots of little white beans in there!

The pasta overtook the dish, but I promise there are lots of little white beans in there!

 

 

Pasta e Fagioli

 

2 tbsp olive oil

1 small onion, diced

3 carrots, peeled and diced

3 cloves of garlic, minced

3 tsp of your favorite Italian seasonings (I used a combination of dried thyme, oregano, marjoram, and basil)

2 bay leaves

2 quarts (8 cups) beef bone broth

1 cup cannellini beans, rinsed and soaked overnight

1 cup macaroni (or other small pasta)

1 can diced tomatoes

½ cup green beans (from freezer)

Freshly ground pepper and sea salt, to taste

 

1. Heat oil in a large pot until it is very hot but not smoking.  Add onions and carrots (you should hear a loud sizzle!), sautéing until soft.  Then add garlic and all the aromatics, sautéing for just a couple more minutes.  I don’t add salt and pepper until later since it interferes with cooking the beans.

 

2.  Add broth and bring to a boil, then add beans and cook until soft.  This step will take the longest – an hour or two, depending on the age and quality of the beans.  This step can be shortened by using pre-cooked beans, but I didn’t have any on hand.

 

3.  When beans are almost soft enough to eat, add pasta to the pot.  You can also add salt and pepper at this step.  If everything is timed well, the pasta and beans should be done about the same time.  Then add tomatoes and green beans to heat through (I don’t like them to be overcooked).

 

4.  Garnish with freshly grated parmesan cheese, a dollop of crème fraîche, or eat it simply by itself.

 

Enjoy this inexpensive yet filling dinner!

 

Part of the Grocery Cart Challenge Recipe Swap.