The Bean Scene

The Bean Scene

Fun Fact: Beans are the only food that fit into two groups on the USDA Food Guide Pyramid: vegetable and protein.

As one of the most nutritionally complete foods available, beans satisfy the varied tastes of both nutrition savvy customers as well as those who crave mainstay comfort foods.

No other foods come close to beans in providing protein, iron, magnesium, zinc, potassium and soluble fiber together in high amounts.

Beans are an economical choice that can balance food costs, add upscale flare and great flavor, texture and nutrition to a myriad of dishes and day parts.

Dry vs. Canned
Dry edible beans are used in many ways and different varieties can often be substituted for other types. All bean varieties are available dry in foodser-vice pack sizes.

While dry beans are commonly used, canned beans and bean products are also available and many times are preferred as a convenience ingredient. Canned items include, among other things, refried beans, soups, chili's, and baked beans.

Advance preparation: Soaking the beans slowly overnight will produce the best looking end product.

Watch the temperature: Try not to actually boil beans, as it loosens and weakens the outer skin. Whole bean integrity is best achieved by keeping the heat at a high simmer.

Mind the water level: Make sure to use plenty of water to cook beans. Sudden exposure to the air will cause the skins to flake.

Minimize stirring: Excessive stirring can damage the appearance of the beans.

Add liquid as needed: To moisten a finished bean dish, stir in additional salad dressing, milk or water.

Cooking times can range from 1 /2 hour to over 3 hours depending on size and density of beans and cooking procedure used. One cup dried beans normally yields approximately. 4 cups cooked.

Spill the Beans
There are dozens of bean varieties available.

Anasazi: Large, white beans with distinctive maroon markings and a fresh, sweet flavor and smooth texture.

Black: Medium-size, black skinned oval with sweet earthy taste that lends itself to salsas, salads, casseroles, soups and stews. Also called the turtle bean.

Black-eyed Pea: Medium, oval, cream colored bean with black spot on skin and subtle flavor. Needs no presoaking because of thin skin. Used in Southern dishes like Hoppin' John; also called the cowpea.

Cannellini: Large white Italian kidney bean, great in soups and salads. In Italian cuisine cannellini is often paired with pasta.

Fava: Tan and flat, resembles a very large lima bean. Used in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean dishes. Good in soups. Also called the broad or horse bean.

Flageolet: Tiny, delicately flavored French kidney bean that ranges from pale green to white. Often accompanies lamb.

Garbanzos: Sometimes referred to as "chickpeas," round, medium-size, beige bean with a nut like flavor. Main ingredient in hummus and falafel.

Great Northern: A larger white bean that resembles the Lima bean in shape but has a delicate, distinctive flavor. Popular in baked bean dishes and often substituted for white beans.

Kidney: Rich maroon color, firm texture and meaty flavor. Great for salads, casseroles and soups.

Lima: Referred to as "butterbeans" because of large size and buttery flavor. Available in baby and large sizes. Flat and green with creamy flavor. Excellent in casseroles, soups and as a sidedish.

Navy: Small, white and oval with mild flavor. Used in pork-and-beans and baked beans, soups and stews.

Pink: Small and pale with meaty flavor; reddish brown when cooked. Used for chili con carne, BBQ beans or other Mexican American bean favorites.

Pinto: Medium-size oval with earthy flavor. Mottled beige color turns brown during cooking.

Red Kidney: Cousin of the kidney bean. Both kinds-light red and deep reddish brown-have robust flavor. Deep reddish brown are available only precooked and canned. Used in chili, soups and three bean salad.

Small Red: Dark red color, robust flavor. Used in soups, salads, chili and Creole dishes. Also called the Mexican red bean.

Soybeans: There are over 1,000 varieties of this nutritious legume, ranging in size from as small as a pea to as large as a cherry. Range in color combinations of red, yellow, green, brown and black. Native to China and India, the soybean is a source of oil, flour and a variety of other products.

Leftover Bean Ideas

  • Mash beans with a pastry blender and season with garlic, herbs and butter or margarine; heat and serve in place of mashed potatoes.
  • For a salad dressing, puree beans in a food processor, season with herbs, thin with milk or water. Or, heat and us as a sauce with pasta and vegetables.
  • Use mashed or puréed beans to thicken soups or stews.