Here & Now resident chef Kathy Gunst has three nutritious and easy recipes using canned and dried beans, and brings them in for Here & Now‘s Robin Young to taste and share.
Beans are not only inexpensive, but also wildly versatile: You can use them in soups, stews, chilis, dips, tacos, enchiladas and more. They can be pureed, mashed, sauteed, stir-fried or baked.
And the bonus? Beans are very good for you.
Dried, Or Canned?
It’s all a matter of time and preference. Beans are one of the few canned foods I rely on when time is tight. Always look for non-BPA cans.
Tips For Cooking Dried Beans
Tips For Cooking Canned Beans
Are Beans Healthy?
Beans contain fiber, lots of protein and antioxidants that can aid in digestion and help burn fat. They are a great source of protein for vegetarians and vegans.
Beans are very low in fat (almost none) and are cholesterol-free. In fact, beans actually lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels instead of potentially causing them to increase, unlike some animal proteins.
There are dozens and dozens of varieties of beans. Tastes and textures vary from mild to sweet, earthy, buttery, nutty, creamy, meaty and more. Rancho Gordo of Napa, California, is a great source for heirloom varieties of beans you won’t find anywhere else.
Here’s a guide to some of the most popular bean varieties:
Rich in magnesium, these small oval beans — also called “turtle beans” — with a deep black skin have a velvety texture and a subtly sweet, earthy taste that goes well with smoky flavors, such as bacon or chipotle. These beans have a meaty texture and pair well with burritos, soups, Latin food and vegetarian dishes.
Small, plump, kidney-shaped and spotted, these earthy-flavored beans are an excellent source of folate. These beans, also known as cowpeas, do not need to be presoaked.
This large, creamy and delicately flavored bean — also called white kidney beans or white navy beans — is one of my favorites. They are exceptionally versatile and pair well in pasta dishes as well as soups and stews.
Sauteed sausages and cannelloni beans is a great combination, and this is the classic bean for pasta e fagioli soup. These white beans also make a great pureed dip.
Round, firm, high in fiber and with a terrific nutty flavor, chickpeas are the base of hummus and so many more Middle Eastern and Indian dishes. These beans, also known as garbanzo beans, hold up well to long, slow cooking and work well in salads, dips, soups, stews and more.
An exceptionally creamy bean with a thin skin and a delicious, earthy flavor. These small, rounded beans, also called borlotti beans, have a gorgeous ivory color with red streaks that (unfortunately) in many varieties disappears when cooked. They have a creamy texture and subtle, nutty flavor and are frequently used in Mediterranean cooking, and Italian dishes like pasta e fagiloi and minestrone soups.
Fresh fava beans are a seasonal spring and early summer treat. Dried, they have a creamy texture that is delicious paired with salads, pasta or rice dishes, and goes well with roasted vegetables.
Great Northern Beans
These small, white, kidney-shaped beans are an especially good source of calcium. Because they’re mild and easily absorb other flavors, they work well in soups and stews. This is the traditional bean of the French bean and meat dish cassoulet, and can also be used in New England-style baked beans.
Best known as the bean in chili, this bean has a reddish skin and white interior and has quite a bit of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, iron and almost as many antioxidants as blueberries. Other than chili, kidney beans work well with rice dishes, soups and salads.
Lentils are tiny beans that are exceptionally tender with thin skins; they require no presoaking and cook fairly quickly. There are many varieties of lentils, and they are excellent in soups, vegetable burgers or simmered with spices and herbs. Lentils hold their shape well, making them ideals for salads.
These flat-shaped beans, also known as butter beans, come in large and small sizes and have a buttery, somewhat starchy flesh; baby lima beans can also be quite sweet. This is the traditional bean for succotash. They also work well in stews, soups, salads and casseroles.
Filled with potassium and fiber, these small, white oval-shaped beans have a mild flavor, and are often used in baked beans, soups and stews, or pureed for dips and sauces.
These light-brown beans have substantial amounts of fiber and protein. Their earthy flavor and smooth texture works well in dips and stews or in Mexican refried beans and other Mexican dishes.
My friend John Forti, the executive director of Bedrock Gardens in Lee, New Hampshire, says:
“Through the ages, the herb savory, both winter and summer versions, have been used to cut the flatulence quality when cooking beans. Before there were flatulence pills the herb was added to bean dishes.”
Another tip: Seaweed can help reduce flatulence. Take a strip of dried seaweed when soaking beans, and add it to the pot when cooking. Remove before serving. Ginger and fennel are also said to help reduce gas.
A quick, delicious dip that can be whipped up in under 30 minutes. You can use canned beans (see tips for canned beans) or freshly cooked (see tips for dried beans). A hot, cumin-flavored oil is poured on top of the dip just before serving.
Serve with cumin pita chips or corn chips and/or an assortment of raw vegetables. Serves 4 to 6.
The pita toasts can be made several hours ahead of time and stored in a tightly sealed container at room temperature.
When you roast cubes of winter vegetables — parsnips, winter squash, carrots and celery, along with shallots, leeks and garlic — in a hot oven, they caramelize and become sweet. Add soft, buttery beans and you have a main-course vegetarian soup full of protein, texture and great flavors.
Serves 6 to 8.
These bean-focused tacos have great colors, textures and flavors. If you cook the beans ahead of time (or use good-quality canned) and get all your ingredients ready, the tacos take no time at all. The radish pickle takes 10 minutes!
Serves 2 to 4.
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