We are in the midst of winter darkness. It seeps through our eyes, into our souls. And it is during those times that we must console ourselves with substantial, earthy food that warms our innards and satisfies our hunger.
Of course, I am talking about beans. Nothing is better on a cold night than a stew of beans, garlic, onions and sausages. But I am getting a little ahead of myself. First I must provide some practical information.
For some people, legumes can be a problem. This is because they contain large sugar molecules called oligosaccharides. These molecules are so large, they cannot be absorbed while in the small intestine, and they enter the large intestine to the delight of the large, hungry bacteria that make it home. As the bacteria eat, they produce gas, which accumulates until you let it blow.
But don’t let this stop you from enjoying beans! There is a solution. It is called Beano. I am not making this up. Beano is an enzyme that zaps those oligosaccharides into simple little sugars so they can be absorbed by your small intestine. Problem solved.
Dried, Canned or Fresh?
If you have not ever enjoyed fresh shell beans, such as borlotti (otherwise known as cranberry beans), or fava beans, you are to be pitied. I grow both in my garden, and every year wish that I had planted more. Now is a good time to think about planting those favas. Borlotti need to wait until summer.
Dried beans are not nearly as difficult as one might think, and they are very inexpensive. Just soak them overnight and boil them up with some seasonings for a couple of hours. If you have a pressure cooker, they are ready in about 30 minutes.
Canned beans are something that one should always have around, because you never know when you might needs to grab a can, sauté garlic and onions (and maybe some chopped carrots), season them (herbs, S&P and some spice like cumin, chili or red pepper)and toss them with some short pasta, a little of the pasta water and parmesan. White beans make a great pasta fagioli. But use your imagination.
I make a bean dish that simmers in the slow cooker. The boys love it, so I call it…..
Beans for Boys
This recipe is so retro. You start by sautéing a large onion, green pepper and a couple cloves of garlic in some olive oil or with chopped bacon. Then sauté about 1 lb. of ground beef (this is optional if you are serving vegans). When it’s all cooked up, combine it in the slow cooker with a bag of frozen baby lima beans, 2 cans of drained kidney beans, and one large can of boston-style baked beans. Season it with about 2 T of molasses, 2 T brown sugar, 1t liquid smoke, 1 T oregano, some bay leaves and several vigorous shakes of Worcestershire. Add a can of stewed tomatoes, stir it up, make sure it tastes good, and depending on how much time you have, cook it on low or high. High is ready in about 1.5 hours. Low takes at least 3 hours. I usually add hot sauce, but it really depends on who else is going to eat it.
Don’t forget the Beano.