Beans and other legumes: cooking tips

Recommendations by a team at the Mayo Clinic (Minnesota, USA) This guide contains tips for preparing beans and ways to increase the amount of beans in your meals and snacks.

Legumes — a class of vegetables that include beans, peas, and lentils — are among the most versatile and nutritious foods. Legumes are generally low in fat, cholesterol-free, and rich in folic acid, potassium, iron, and magnesium. They also contain healthy fats and soluble and insoluble fibers. Legumes are a good source of protein and can serve as a good substitute for meat, which is much higher in fat and cholesterol.

 If you want to increase the amount of legumes in your diet, but don’t know how to do it, this guide will help you.

Many supermarkets and grocery stores carry a wide variety of legumes, both dried and canned. From them you can cook sweet dishes, Latin American, Spanish, Indian, Japanese and Chinese dishes, soups, stews, salads, pancakes, hummus, casseroles, side dishes, snacks.

Dried beans, with the exception of lentils, require soaking in room temperature water, at which point they are hydrated to help them cook evenly. They should be sorted out before soaking, discarding any discolored or shriveled beans and foreign matter. Depending on how much time you have, choose one of the following soaking methods.

Slow soak. Pour the beans into a pot of water, cover and refrigerate for 6 to 8 hours or overnight.

Hot soak. Pour boiling water over dried beans, put on fire and bring to a boil. Remove from heat, cover tightly with a lid and set aside, let stand at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours.

Quick soak. Boil water in a saucepan, add dried beans, bring to a boil, cook for 2-3 minutes. Cover and let stand at room temperature for an hour.

Cooking without soaking. Put the beans in a saucepan and pour boiling water over it, boil for 2-3 minutes. Then cover and set aside overnight. The next day, 75 to 90 percent of the indigestible sugars that cause gas will be dissolved in the water, which should be drained.

After soaking, the beans need to be washed, add fresh water. Boil the beans preferably in a large saucepan so that the water level does not exceed one third of the volume of the saucepan. You can add herbs and spices. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until tender. Cooking time will vary depending on the type of bean, but you can start checking for doneness after 45 minutes. Add more water if the beans are cooked without a lid. Other Tips: Add salt and acidic ingredients like vinegar, tomatoes, or tomato paste towards the end of cooking, when the beans are almost done. If these ingredients are added too early, they can stiffen the beans and slow down the cooking process. The beans are ready when they purée when lightly pressed with a fork or fingers. To freeze boiled beans for later use, immerse them in cold water until cool, then drain and freeze.

 Some manufacturers offer “instant” beans – that is, they have already been pre-soaked and dried again and do not need additional soaking. Finally, canned beans are the quickest addition to many meals without a lot of fiddling around. Just remember to rinse canned beans to remove some of the sodium added during cooking.

 Consider ways to include more legumes in your meals and snacks: Make soups and casseroles with legumes. Use pureed beans as a base for sauces and gravies. Add chickpeas and black beans to salads. If you usually buy salad at work and the beans aren’t available, bring your own homemade beans from home in a small container. Snack on soy nuts, not chips and crackers.

 If you can’t find a particular type of bean in the store, you can easily substitute one type of bean for another. For example, black beans are good substitutes for red beans.

 Beans and other legumes can lead to intestinal gas. Here are a few ways to reduce the gas-producing properties of legumes: Change the water several times during the soak. Do not use the water that the beans were soaked in to cook them. Change the water in the pot of simmering beans 5 minutes after the start of the boil. Try using canned beans – the canning process will neutralize some of the gas producing sugars. Simmer the beans over low heat until fully cooked. Soft beans are easier to digest. Add gas-reducing spices such as dill and cumin seeds when cooking bean dishes.

 As you add new legumes to your diet, be sure to drink enough water and exercise regularly to help your digestive system.


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