Every once in a while, we tend to fall into a cooking rut. This often results in the same four or five dishes at the family table and taste fatigue for the cook and diners involved. Even the best minestrone soup will taste blah if you have to eat it day after day! Here are some new ways of preparing and enjoying your longstanding bean favorites.
Five Beans, Five Ways
- Roast ‘Em GarbanzosChickpeas (also called garbanzo beans) can be tossed in a bit of olive oil and roasted in the oven until crispy, making them an easy, tasty, and nutritious snack. They taste best if coated in some spices before roasting. Try curry powder for an Asian twist, or cumin and chili powder for a Southwestern flair. If you are using canned chickpeas, rinse and drain the liquid away before cooking. Use a hot oven (400F), spread the seasoned chickpeas in a single layer on a baking sheet, and set the timer to 25 minutes. Depending on the oven, you may need to add more time. Let the roasted beans cool slightly before eating.
- Make Black Bean Balls and PattiesBlack beans are popular in chilies, stews, and soups because of their lovely flavor. Have you ever considered using them in place of ground meat to make bean loaf, bean balls, or bean patties? Use your original recipe and replace all of the meat with cooked beans (make sure you rinse off canned ones before grinding them up in the food processor). If you are not sure about switching to an all-bean “meat” base, use half bean mixture and half ground meat of your choice.
- Bake Kidney Bean BreadAlthough it may seem unusual, baking beans right into bread is an easy way to increase your intake of legumes. The beans are cooked until soft, mashed, and added right into the bread dough. Think about it: You have carbs and protein already “packed” into one edible item! This is great for the kids’ snack on the go or the school/office lunchbox.
- Mash That FavaNext time you need a tasty side dish, try mashed fava beans in place of mashed potatoes. (If you can’t part with your potatoes, you can do a half potato/half fava mixture.) To cut down on cooking time, you can buy split fava beans in Middle Eastern grocery stores. Note that how you process the cooked beans will determine the end texture: Pureeing the beans in the food processor will yield a gummier texture. If you want a fluffy texture, use a potato masher or run them through a food mill.
- Serve Red Lentil PancakesWe tend to think of pancakes as a breakfast item, but there is no reason why we can’t have pancakes at other times. South Asian cuisine, in particular, makes extensive use of lentils, and one of the most common ways to use them is in thin, crepe-like savory pancakes to enjoy as a snack or as part of a meal. Many traditional recipes call for lentil flour, but you can definitely find recipes that use soaked or cooked lentils.
The Bottom Line
It turns out that the saying “eat from the colors of the rainbow” applies to beans as well! Pick out your favorite colors from the list above and start discovering new ways of enjoying your long-time staple.