Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Cooking Dry Beans

Black Bean Tacos

I prepared a lot of bean dishes in graduate school. Chickpeas were my go to legume. When I was really strapped for time, I would sauté them with turmeric and cumin and smother them in salsa. I loved the contrast of the creamy garbanzo beans and the feisty tomatoes. The cost of preparing the dish was low, and as a grad student that was a huge bonus. 

These days when I cook beans, I reach for dried beans whenever possible. Dried beans are not only cheaper than canned beans, they are free of salt and other unwanted preservatives. When cooked properly, dried beans are also mush-free unlike so many of their tinned cousins.
Soaking Methods for Dried Beans
Using dried beans admittedly requires a bit of planning. After being picked over and rinsed, the beans should be hydrated to reduce their cooking time. This is done using either a quick soak method or a long soak method.
  • The quick soak method (also known as a hot soak) involves boiling dried beans for two minutes and then soaking them for an hour or so in the hot liquid before cooking them.
  • The long soak method, or cold soak, requires soaking the beans in cool water for six to eight hours before cooking them. 
Dried, soaked, and cooked black beans

Black beans in three stages (l-r): dried, soaked, and cooked
Regardless of which method you use, always start with the freshest beans possible (versus those that have languished on the pantry shelf). Not surprisingly, the fresher the bean, the better its cooked texture will be.
How to Cook Dried Beans
Lay the dried beans on a countertop or cutting board. Pick out and discard any shriveled beans, small stones, or other foreign matter. 
Picking through dried beans

Rinse the beans with cold water and drain. 

Soaked beans
To soak with the quick soak method: Place the beans in a pot and cover them with water, using three cups of water for every cup of beans. Bring to a boil and cook for two minutes. Remove from heat. Cover and set aside for an hour.

To soak with the long soak method: Place the beans in a pot and cover with water, again using three cups of water for every cup of beans. Cover and set aside for six to eight hours.

Drain and rinse the soaked beans.  

Place the beans in a pot and cover with water (using three cups of water for every cup of beans). Bring the water to a boil. Reduce the heat to produce a gentle simmer. When the beans just start to soften, season with salt. 
Cook the beans until they are tender, adding water when needed. Cooking times will vary depending on the type of bean you are using. Pinto and garbanzo beans take longer to cook than kidney, navy, and lima beans. Drain beans in a sieve.

Cooked and drained black beans

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Saturday, April 1, 2017

Boiling Eggs

When I was four, our family traveled to Ontario to visit the Raos, who were close family friends. Just before dusk the first night, I managed to get lost in their subdivision. A neighbor heard me whimpering to her cat who was lounging in the driveway. I had thick black hair and a bangle encircling each wrist. She guessed that I was related to the Raos who were the only Indians on the block. To confirm her suspicion, she asked me what I liked to eat. Instead of  saying "curry," I responded with "Cookies and eggs." Thankfully, she called the Raos anyway.

I still get weak in the knees when I eat eggs, and am especially fond of  Eggs in Coconut Milk and Egg Roast. On the rare occasion when my fridge is near empty, I boil one up until its yolk is velvety and its white has a cushy softness. I sprinkle it with salt and pepper for breakfast in a flash.

It’s easy to overcook eggs. To avoid producing boiled eggs with rubbery whites and yellow-green yolks, follow these simple steps:

How to Boil Eggs 

Fresh eggs are often harder to peel than eggs that have been around for a week or so. So boil older eggs whenever possible. 

Place eggs in a saucepan in a single layer. Cover with an inch or so of cold water. Bring the water to a boil over high heat.

Eggs in water

Remove the saucepan from the heat. Cover with a lid and let the eggs sit in the water for five minutes to make soft boiled eggs and 15 minutes for hard boiled eggs. 

How to Peel Boiled Eggs

Drain the water. Allow the eggs to cool for one minute until they are easy to hold. 

For soft boiled eggs: Carefully tap the top of the egg on a hard surface to crack the shell. Peel off the top third of the shell. Use a spoon to scoop out the cooked egg.

For hard boiled eggs: Crack the egg shells by gently rolling each egg against a hard surface with the palm of your hand. You can also cover the saucepan with a lid and slide it across your kitchen counter to crack the shells of the eggs inside. Hold each egg under cold water and peel off the shell, beginning at the wide end, which gives most easily.

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