Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Saturday, October 16, 2010

BUSY COOKING DAY, AND ON SOAKING, SALTING AND COOKING BEANS

Best Blog Tips
"Border Beans"

I'm late blogging this week, I know. Too many things going on at once! But I spent much of the day today doing some cooking. I made my homemade low-fat mayonnaise, black bean soup, and tofu onion dip to eat with baby carrots. I put okara from my last batch of soymilk in the food dryer to dehydrate for for making okara parmesan tomorrow. I made a gooey dessert for my stepson and his lady who are coming tonight or tomorrow, and, for dinner, Argentine Shepherd's Pie from my soy cookbook. (Shepherd's Pie of any sort is a favorite of DH's.) Yes, I do use my own cookbooks!


Argentine Shepherd's Pie (it has a sort of Latin American Piccadillo type of filling with Yves Veggie Ground Round, tomatoes, sliced green olives, etc.)


The Gooey Dessert: Almost No-Fat Brownies (from my Holiday cookbook)-- I baked 1/2 the recipe in a 7-inch round cake pan to make 4 flattish wedges. Drizzled them with my homemade vegan "Manjar Blanco", which is the Peruvian term for Dulce de Leche (recipe in my book "World Vegan Feast") and topped them with pecans, pumpkin seeds and peanuts toasted with a little vegan butter (try my homemade palm oil free vegan Buttah). Too good!

I also made our favorite simple bean dish, a vegan version of a recipe from my first mother-in-law, Ruth Stuhr Clark, the mother of my late husband, my children's dad, Wayne Clark. The recipe is called "Border Beans" (recipe below). It is in my very 1st cookbook. She made it with pinto beans, garlic, oregano, chile pequin, and a ham hock. I think my adaptation has a very similar flavor. The pinto beans are creamy and satisfying, but the broth is one of the best parts. I absolutely crave this at times!  We eat it plain, or with bread or rice, and we use it as a basic recipe for beans in many dishes.

But today I cooked it in a different fashion than usual. Ruth cooked it on top of the stove, after a long soaking, and that's what I've done for, I hate to say it, almost 45 years! (I got married very young!) But this time I wanted to try out what some people call "The Russ Parsons Method". Russ Parsons is Food editor for the LA Times and the author of "How to Read a French Fry".

Before I go on, I want to mention how I found this method. I have read SO many times that you should not salt your beans or use a salted broth to cook them, or it will impede cooking, make the beans tough, etc.. However, I have always used salt or a salted broth to cook my beans, with no problems whatsoever. So, I was interested to see that food scientists are endeavoring to get the word out that this just isn't so! It's important because adding salt at the end doesn't produce as rounded a flavor.

Cook's Illustrated magazine, Saveur magazine, and Fine Cooking all have had articles on this. In fact, Cook's Illustrated advises a salty soak for the beans-- brining, in effect. "Why does soaking dried beans in salted water make them cook up with softer skins? It has to do with how the sodium ions in salt interact with the cells of the bean skins. As the beans soak, the sodium ions replace some of the calcium and magnesium ions in the skins. Because sodium ions are weaker than mineral ions, they allow more water to penetrate into the skins, leading to a softer texture. During soaking, the sodium ions will only filter partway into the beans, so their greatest effect is on the cells in the outermost part of the beans." Cook's Illustrated.  You can read more here and here.

Food scientists Shirley Corriher and Harold McGee also concur. So I feel pretty good about following my instincts!

In the course of researching this, I also read what I had always suspected-- that the real culprits in terms of slowing down cooking are acidic ingredients, like vinegar, citrus fruits, tomatoes; calcium and magnesium, which may be in your water; and sugar, such as molasses. So you can add those things (well, the water depends on where you live!) towards the end of cooking-- or not. It turns out that, although these things slow down the cooking (the absorption of water into the beans, actually), that may not always be a bad thing. Slower cooking produces not only more flavor, but beans that have intact skins (for the most part) and hold their shape.

Another thing I came across were different viewpoints on soaking beans before cooking. The food scientists seem to say that it might speed up cooking a bit, and it might help with digestive problems, but you lose some nutrients. Mexican cooks don't soak their beans and they eat beans 3 times a day (or so I'm told). Rick Bayless and Diana Kennedy (famous cookbook authors who specialize in Mexican cooking) don't soak. Neither does Melissa Guerra, a Texas cookbook writer. Food scientists tell us that if you eat beans often, they don't have the same effect as on people who eat beans infrequently. Anyway, it's getting late and I don't want to go on and on, but a good case has been made for not soaking if you don't feel like it or don't have the time. (Oh, and it seems that Old World beans like favas, soybeans, and chickpeas cook better when soaked, whereas New World beans [most of the others] do not. Cultural customs in regards to soaking seem to reflect this.)

Which brings us to the Russ Parsons method of cooking unsoaked beans in a heavy pot in the oven, with salt or salted broth, and less liquid than you are probably accustomed to in a relatively slow oven. So many people raved about it online (and huge, long forum threads are dedicated to discussing this on the eGullet forums: see here and here).

The method was said to produce a superior bean in terms of flavor, appearance and texture, AND a tastier bean broth. Sounds like a good thing for a vegan, I thought! So I adapted my Border Bean recipe and gave it a try-- I was very happy with the results! The beans cooked in 90 minutes, BTW. Fresher beans would probably have taken less time. (I also tried black beans and they did take longer to cook.)

In the near future I am going to play around with other methods, such as pressure cooker and slow-cooker, and will blog about the results. (My daughter Sarah uses a slow-cooker with boiling water and cooks the UN-soaked beans on High for 90 minutes-- she says it works every time!)  I suspect that certain methods may be better than others depending on what you will be using the beans for.



Printable Recipe
BRYANNA'S VEGAN BORDER BEANS AND “REFRIED” BEANS- NO-SOAK, OVEN-BAKED VERSION
Makes 6-8 servings

3 cups pinto beans
Tip: OR you can use small red or pink beans or black beans, or even Romano beans— but NOT kidney beans.  Kidney beans aren't right for this particular recipe, and they are one of those beans, like favas, soybeans, and chickpeas, that seems to benefit from soaking.
6 cups HOT good-tasting vegan broth (see here about good-tasting vegan "chicken" broth, and here about mushroom broth-- I like to use 1/2 and 1/2)
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 to 3 dried red chiles, crumbled (she used chile pequins)
2 teaspoons dried oregano
a few dashes of liquid smoke (see this post for info on this ingredient)
OPTIONAL: 2 tablespoons dark sesame oil (I use this tasty oil in place of bacon or pork fat)
OPTIONAL: 2 tablespoons soy “bacon” chips or bits

No need to soak the beans. Heat the oven to 325°F. Put the dry beans in a 3-quart (or larger) Dutch oven or pot with a tight-fitting lid. Some people prefer a clay bean pot. Add the hot broth and the other ingredients EXCEPT the sesame oil. Place on the lid and bake for 75 minutes. Check the beans and stir them. If they are tender, take them out of the oven. If they aren't done, put them back in for 15 minute intervals until they are, adding a cup of hot water if they seem to be drying out. This will take at most 2 hours, but will probably take less than 90 minutes. (The time is dependent on the freshness of the beans, and also the type of beans-- black beans take longer than pintos, for instance.)  Add the sesame oil and taste for salt. The beans will be a bit “soupy”—the broth is delicious!



TO MAKE “REFRIED” BEANS: I don’t use any fat in these. I just use a very large heavy skillet over high heat and dump in the amount of beans I want to “refry”, along with some of the broth. I mash them with a potato masher while cooking the broth down. After they are mashed, I use a wooden spoon to keep the mixture moving, so it doesn’t stick (don’t leave them for a minute!) When the beans are the consistency I like, I remove them from the heat. Easy!

Printable Recipe
BRYANNA'S VEGAN BORDER BEANS AND “REFRIED” BEANS- STOVE TOP VERSION
Makes 6-8 servings
This is a slightly different version than in my 1st cookbook.

3 cups pinto beans (or you can use small red or pink beans or black beans, or even Romano beans-— but NOT kidney beans-- they aren't right for this particular recipe)
8 cups good-tasting vegan broth (see here about good-tasting vegan "chicken" broth, and here about mushroom broth-- I like to use 1/2 and 1/2)
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 to 3 dried red chiles, crumbled (she used chile pequins)
2 teaspoons dried oregano
a few dashes of liquid smoke (see this post for info on this ingredient)
OPTIONAL: 2 tablespoons dark sesame oil (I use this tasty oil in place of bacon or pork fat)
OPTIONAL: 2 tablespoons soy “bacon” chips or bits

Soak the pinto beans in 9 cups water overnight. Drain and discard the water and place the soaked beans in a large pot with the remaining ingredients EXCEPT the sesame oil. Bring to a boil, boil about 3 minutes, then turn down and simmer, covered, for 2 to 3 hours, or until the beans are very tender. Add the sesame oil and taste for salt. The beans will be a bit “soupy”— the broth is delicious!

TO MAKE “REFRIED” BEANS: I don’t use any fat in these. I just use a very large heavy skillet over high heat and dump in the amount of beans I want to “refry”, along with some of the broth. I mash them with a potato masher while cooking the broth down. After they are mashed, I use a wooden spoon to keep the mixture moving, so it doesn’t stick (don’t leave them for a minute!) When the beans are the consistency I like, I remove them from the heat. Easy!

Enjoy!

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

In the recipe, you write "No knead to soak the beans." I guess that your mind was jumping ahead to some bread making. You probably will want to correct this!

I will have to try your method. Sounds easy and gets good results.

Jo

SJ said...

I just happened upon your post while soaking black beans for black bean soup. I immediately ran to the kitchen to add salt to my soaking beans. Thanks for this timely subject!

Bryanna Clark Grogan said...

LOL, Jo! Tired brain last night when I was writing that, then tired brain first thing this morning when I read your comment! I still didn't see "knead" instead of "need"! It finally dawned on me what you were on about as I was taking my morning walk! I fixed it-- thanks for the heads-up!

Everlie said...

Just wondering why this method won't work for kidney beans. They're my fave.

And Jo seems to have been referring to the spelling of "knead" not that you did or didn't soak. : )

Bryanna Clark Grogan said...

oh, it's not the method that won't work with kidney beans-- it's just that I don't like them in this recipe! But, it does seem that kidney beans, along with soybeans, fava beans and chickpeas, seem to do better with soaking (the salt soak as we now know!).

Pinto beans are widely used in Tex-Mex and Cal-Mex recipes (I grew up in California). Small red or pink beans would be my second choice. Black beans I love, too, but it's a very different dish with black beans.

I'm not that fond of red kidney beans because the skins tend to be tougher, and separate from the bean. I do like WHITE kidney beans and use them in place of cannellini and Great Northern beans if I can't find them.

Try pinto beans-- so creamy!

Linda said...

Interesting! I have found that it's sort of a crapshoot!! But, only in regard to the beans themselves: In other words, if the beans are "good," they'll come out good no matter what I do or don't do! I've had success whether soaking or not, etc.; so I've finally narrowed it down to the beans...maybe they are just temperamental! I do agree with the acid being a problem most of the time, yet, I've had them come out fine at times before I knew better !

Anonymous said...

Good to know that soaking is generally unnecessary, and salting during the cooking period may be necessary for best flavor.
When is that cookbook coming; I am waiting!

Father Flatus said...

I soak and pressure cook most beans now. I'm still getting the timing right on the pressure cooking; just a couple minutes can result in quite well done beans (especially with pintos)- which doesn't bother me for most dishes. But the pressure cooks them very evenly right to the middle; especially good for dense beans (like chickpeas and kidney beans).

Bryanna Clark Grogan said...

I use a pressure cooker, too-- have done for years. BUt, as you say, a few minutes can make a big difference, so, unless I'm in a tearing hurry, I make them in the oven or on the stovetop (or slow-cooker) when I want the beans to hold their shape. I made a pressure cooker batch of black beans without soaking in half an hour, but they were just enough overcooked so that I had to freeze hem to use in soups and spreads.

Linda said...

I read that altitude makes a huge diff, too.

Bryanna Clark Grogan said...

They definitely take longer at high altitudes, but everything else applies. Here's a blog post from bean grower and expert Steve Sando, of Rancho Gordo, with interesting comments:
http://ranchogordo.typepad.com/rancho_gordo_experiments_/2010/03/cooking-beans-at-a-high-altitude.html

This article (and others) about high-altitude cooking says:
"You will find that beyond a certain altitude some foods cannot even be cooked without a pressure cooker! For instance, dried beans. The boiling point of water at very high altitudes is simply so low that without a pressure cooker the water will just keep steaming off at a temperature that doesn't even begin to cook the beans."
http://www.christianchefs.org/newsletters/1999/02LSOTM.html

But someone commented in the blog post noted above that they use a slow cooker and it just takes longer, so ???

blessedmama said...

Great post. I hardly ever soak beans when making them for my family because our GIs have all adjusted to them and we don't get gas. We eat beans several times a week. I will soak them, if I'm making a meal for other people, though. By the way, I also use your cookbooks, like you. :-)