I<3 Legumes

January 6, 2009


I love beans. The chickpea, sometimes called a garbanzo bean, is my favourite. Black beans, kidney beans and black-eyed peas are classics. Mung (or Moong) beans and Adzuki beans are becoming regulars. My cupboards are overflowing with beans (don’t even get me started on lentils). And unlike the case in one of my favourite films, Delicatessen, beans are dead cheap.
Until a year ago or so I was a fan of canned beans. I bought them without thinking, lugging the heavy cans back from the grocery store. Once the BPA reports started coming in and with it long distance phone calls with my sister, also a voracious bean eater, as we discussed the validity and concerns of all our canned-bean eating. It was time to change our habits.

Not taking anymore chances I started eating dried beans but I had no idea what I was doing.

Buying dried beans is easy. The basics will be found in the baking aisle of most grocery stores. Better dried bean selections are at Grace on Bank St. and any Bulk Barn.

I tried several different methods of cooking the beans and looked to food blogs trying to sort out the best. After a year this is my standard for any type of bean.

1 part bean: 3 parts water
Soak overnight, or during the day (minimum 10 hours)
Rinse the beans and put them in a pot with water to boil, and then simmer. After the beans have started boiling a foam will appear that should be skimmed off.
The length of time the beans need to simmer depends on the age of the beans. Anywhere from thirty-five minutes to an hour (for very old beans). I usually nibble on a bean to see how soft it is after forty minutes.
I like to do several cups of beans at one time and freeze or refrigerate the extra beans (they’re good for a week). Typically I put them in baggies of the same size as a can of beans so I can simply follow my favourite recipes.
19oz can = 2 cups of cooked beans
14oz can = 1 1/2 cups of cooked beans

As a bean lover, there are two great and immediate rewards for eating beans this way: they taste better and they are supposedly less gaseous. I asked my cat if he thought this was true and wisely he had no comment.



In some odd irony, the Times Online has reported that Spam factories are working overtime to create enough product to feed the hungry Americans looking for ways to cut back on their food budgets. It’s not secret that in times of economic downturn that a greater percentage of our ever shrinking food budgets go towards “staples,” but is raises some concern to me that our society counts spam in this category.

I know that in many ways we have lost the art of cooking. When we all had high-paying jobs as investment brokers we got all the calories we needed from martinis and frozen burritos. When things get rough we just don’t know where to turn – hence oil crashes and we see a run on Spam

Not to fear! You can get one can of low sodium or hickory smoke spam for $2.75 (according to the spam.com store). Here are some *better* menu ideas that won’t cost you more than that…

1. Spaghetti – one can of tomatoes costs less than a dollar. You can make sauce by just cooking it for a few minutes with garlic and blending it. Seriously – anyone can do this.

2. Legumes – chick peas, beans, lentils all last a really long time and cost nearly nothing.

3. Eggs – omlettes or fried egg sandwiches are cheap easy and not just for breakfast.

4. Carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes or other root vegetables are good for tones of things, last a while and are dirt cheap.

5. Sandwiches – cucumber, slices of cheese, part of a tomato, whatever you like.

6. Soup – broth plus anything is soup, you can get a can of it for a dollar and add scraps from the fridge. If it’s still not good, blend it up and call it “bisque.”

7. Rice, Cous Cous or other grains – you can buy them in bulk and really put anything on them. Great for make-ahead lunch time meals too.

8. Tofu – it’s like the vegan spam without the salt, just season and serve!

9. Salad – even in the winter lettuce doesn’t get that pricey. It’s the classic health food.

10. Any of the above the second day – it’s probably cheaper to eat leftovers than anything else. You’re already cooking, make twice as much and eat for two days.

In this economic climate we all need our strength… eat well!