Dried beans, peas and lentils have been a staple for eons with good reason. They store for years without any special processing and pack a nutritional punch with an impressive combination of protein and fiber. Plus, they’re inexpensive. If you’re looking to expand your menu without breaking the bank, look to these dried gems.
Cooking Tips For Dried Beans
Many people don’t cook with dried beans or peas because they think they must be soaked prior to cooking, or that they require hours to cook. Neither is quite accurate. And it’s good to know that you don’t have to soak lentils at all.
Beans are soaked to reduce the cooking time, plus increase their digestibility, eliminating their gas-producing nature. To soak beans or whole peas, rinse them first and pick out any damaged ones. And then simply cover them with water and allow them to sit for anywhere from 6 to 24 hours. Feel free to add salt to season them. It doesn’t make them tough or difficult to cook as once thought. Drain them to remove many of the components that cause digestive issues before cooking them.
If you’re crunched for time, it’s acceptable to do a quicker version by covering them with a couple of inches of water and boiling them for a minute. Remove them from the heat and allow them to stand for an hour. Drain and cook as you need for the recipe.
The ultimate fast method is utilizing a pressure cooker. Those using a pressure cooker with a weight should add a tablespoon of a vegetable oil per cup of beans to reduce the foaming from the beans that could clog the unit.
Cooking time depends on size. Lentils typically only take 10 to 12 minutes on high (15psi). Whole peas are around 16 to 18 minutes. Dried beans usually need 20 to 30 minutes, depending on their size. Allow the pressure to release naturally after the cooking time.
And if you cook a big batch of dried beans that you won’t use immediately, cooked beans freeze well. Place them in freezer bags or containers so you will have servings ready to go whenever you need a quick meal.
Whether you’re growing your own, or buying dried beans, peas and lentils at the local market, they are a powerful addition to your pantry that can boost your health while being kind to your budget.
Lentil Soup With Kale & Sausage
1 cup lentils, rinsed
1 lbs. mild or hot Italian sausage (use either the bulk, or links with casings removed)
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 bundle of kale, chopped (roughly 2 cups)
4 cups chicken stock
2 cups water
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
Brown the Italian sausage in the tablespoon of olive oil in a 2 quart pan. Add onions, carrots, celery and garlic. Cook gently for 4 minutes. Add lentils, chicken stock, water and rosemary. Allow to simmer for approximately 30 minutes, until lentils are cooked.
Grate Parmesan cheese over the top before serving. Add a slice of rustic bread for a hearty soup at any time of the season. Yields 4-6 servings.
Vegetarian Baked Beans
2 cups dried beans (navy, pinto or any larger dried bean)
4-8 cups water
1 onion, chopped
1 tbsp. olive oil
¼ cup molasses
¼ cup maple syrup
1 cup tomato sauce
2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. ground mustard
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
Salt to taste
If you desire, soak your beans overnight by covering them with a couple of inches of water, cover and allow to set on a counter. Drain the beans, place them in a large pot and add enough water to cover them by an inch. Cook for 2 -4 hours, or until tender.
Or, if you’re cooking them in a pressure cooker, add 8 cups of water and a tablespoon of vegetable oil (if desired). Once the cooker reaches full pressure at 15 psi, cook for 22-20 minutes. Allow the pressure to decrease naturally.
To make the sauce, sauté the chopped onion in the olive oil. Add molasses, maple syrup, tomato sauce, apple cider vinegar, ground mustard, spices and salt. Place the cooked beans in a 9 x 13 pan, pour sauce over the top and stir. Cover and bake for an hour. Yields 6-8 servings.