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11.07.2005

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hill o' beans 
how to cook dried beans
by Yee-Fan Sun |
1 2 3 4
continued from page 2

sizing it up: how much to cook
Because most dried beans take so long to cook, I almost always cook them in large batches, and freeze the excess. For me, this generally means cooking at least 4-5 cups of dried beans at a time. This might not look like all that much when you're measuring out the dried beans, but beans expand considerably as they cook -- generally, cooked beans take up 2-3 times as much volume as they do in their dessicated state. So, one measly cup of dried bean will actually produce two to three cups of bean once it's all cooked up -- which is a fair amount. You can generally estimate that you'll need to cup of cooked beans per person for a side dish, and 1 to 1 cups of cooked beans per eater if the beans are a main.

get picky: prepping the beans
Dried beans sometimes have some non-bean material mixed in with them when you bring them back from the store -- little stones and clumps of dirt, for instance. Before you cook up your beans, you'll want to pick through them and remove all the junky bits. Also discard any beans that look damaged. Once you've sorted through the beans, rinse well and drain.

Now at this point, you'll find yourself faced with a choice. To soak or not to soak -- ah yes, that is the question. For most folks, that pesky pre-soaking is probably the single biggest impediment to cooking dried beans. Somehow, that extra step of having to remember to soak the beans overnight just strikes our inner sloths as being far too much of a pain.

As it turns out, contrary to popular belief, pre-soaking is NOT an essential step in preparing dried beans. However -- and this is a big however for some folks -- presoaking has one important advantage over cooking straightaway: it minimizes the gassiness problem. By soaking the beans beforehand, you're letting some of the compounds that cause gas to dissolve into the water, which is then discarded before cooking. There's still no guarantee that you'll enjoy a fart-free, bloat-free evening, but your chances of doing so are much greater. As an added bonus, presoaking also reduces the actual cooking time, though to me, the difference between two hours versus three has never in and of itself been that much an incentive -- either way, it's awhile.

Basically, in the end, it's up to you whether you choose to soak or not. If you can remember to do so, it's probably just as well to soak. Should you choose to skip it, however, you can still make your beans. As for the flatulence problem, most folks find that the more often they eat beans, the easier their bodies are able to digest beans anyway, and hence, less gassiness. If it really bothers you, you can also take an enzyme supplement like Beano to help break down the beans.

To soak your beans, just cover them with at least two inches of cool water. Let them sit at least eight hours, or up to a day. It's actually kind of cool to monitor their transformation during this time, as you'll see them go from little and smooth, to a bit bigger and wrinkled, to plump and smooth -- like magic!

still more this way: saunter along! 

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