Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Removing the boring from rice & beans!

I am a big fan of being lazy. Plus I am a devout penny pincher. These two traits sometimes clash making me confused enough to wander the produce section for hours aimlessly. Usually the lazy wins but I am always much happier with the thrifty snatches victory from the lax grasp.

One thing that I am always pleased with is dried beans. These perfect gems packed with protein always make me smile. What could be better than spending under a dollar for a two pound bag that will make more meals than I need in a week?! Paired with rice its a recipe for success.

Of course some people, who shall remain nameless *cough*husband*cough*, find rice and beans boring, uninteresting and just blah. How this is possible is beyond me, but so often I mention Rice & Beans as a meal option and he inevitably picks anything else on the list. *sigh* Thus you all must listen to my lovely essay on the perfection that is legumes and grain pairings!

First off, start dried!
One bag of dried beans is cheap and oh so easy to prepare. Bring that sucker home, pour it into a colander and rinse them. Be sure you pick out any that look bad or even little stones. No one wants to bite into that!

Next bosh them into a pot with twice as much water and aromatics of your choice. Garlic, quartered onion, herbs, spices, or kombu. Just remember this important thing: NO SALT! Adding salt will make the beans tough and they will never soak or cook to a lovely softness.

Let this pot sit on the counter for 4 to 8 hours. I have even let mine sit 20 but just make sure it all smells good when you do return to it.

Drain the beans and remove any aromatics. Boiling things like kombu just turns things sticky and clumpy. So they have served their purpose and its time for them to go into the compost or into your broth bag in the freezer. (Thats another topic to be touched on at a later date!)

Now that you have soaked beans you are ready to move on to cooking them!

Plop those soaked but drained legumes into the same pot that I know you rinsed out already. Add in twice as much water as beans and move to the stove. I like to pressure cook my beans to make things fast because I am lazy, but you can cook them the long way in a regular pot on the stove. Simply bring them to a boil, lower the temp from high to medium and keep at a very high simmer until done. Check them by scooping a bean out and squishing it with a fork. Eat the squished bean to test the texture to your desired tooth.

One quick hint if you will pressure cook, preheat two burners. One on high and one on slightly above low, the perfect temp is 2.5 on my stove. Once you seal your pot and its to pressure move it to the lower burner for the timed amount. Read your recipe book that came with your pressure cooker for the correct time! I always find myself playing musical burners as I rarely cook just one thing at a time.

Once your beans are done drain them off and they are ready for anything. Freeze them in bags for quick additions to meals. Toss them in a soup. Puree them into hummus. Bake them in a casserole! Sprinkle them on your salad. The options are endless.

If you now add these glorious legumes to rice this makes a fabulous meal. Some ideas!

  • Long Grain White Rice and Black Beans; add in salsa after cooking to spice things up!
  • Basmatti Rice with Canellini Beans; flavor with basil and thyme for a light delicate flavor.
  • Jasmine Rice with Garbanzo Beans; mix in anything from balsamic vinegar to sage and rosemary.
  • White and Wild rice with pink kidney beans; creole seasoning makes it delicious.
  • Brown Rice and Soy Beans; sprinkle liberally with soy sauce and ginger!
  • Short Grain rice with pigeon peas; boil the water with saffron first for a delicate floral flavor.
  • And my favorite Long Grain White rice with a multi bean stew with onions and garlic!

The options are endless really. Combinations that may interest me may be of no interest to you. Make your own concoction! Do not be afraid to toss those cooked beans into the rice pot before it cooks and mingle the flavors. Just the perfect combination of cheap and lazy to make me one happy vegan!

1 comment:

Jennifer said...

I couldn't agree more about the dried beans! And not only are they cheaper than their canned counterparts, I think they taste better too.

I understand about - um - significant others thinking that rice and beans is a rather dull dish, but all you gotta do is get creative!

Excellent idea soaking some of the flavorings with the beans as they soak, I would have never thought of that.

Thanks for all the ideas on how to jazz up the oft overlooked beans and rice combo!