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How to Choose and Buy Dried Beans

Selection of Dried Beans:

 

Most dried beans in this country are sold in bags, boxes, or plastic packages. Look for clean, fresh-looking packages, without any holes in them. If bulk beans are available, look for those that are hard, shiny, and bright colored. When buying in bulk, avoid beans that are separated or shriveled.


A good rule of thumb is to count on 1 cup of dried beans to result in 2 cups cooked. About 1/4 cup dried or 1/2 cooked beans serves on person. Dried beans are generally low in fat and high in fiber and, depending on the variety, contain 250 to 300 calories per cup when cooked.


Preparation:

Almost all dried peas, beans, and legumes need to be soaked to re-hydrate before cooking. Several exceptions include split peas, lentils and black-eyed peas. If time isnít a problem, wash and pick over the beans, removing any little stones (they get scooped up when the beans are prepared-and add a little gratuitous weight to the packages), separated or shriveled beans, and any other extraneous material that may have come along for the ride. Place the washed beans in a large bowl and add enough beans at least 8 hours or overnight if possible. The beans will swell quite a lot. When you are ready to cook, drain the beans, rinse again (to remove some of the gas producing sugars) and turn them into the cooking pot.


If time is of the essence, the "quick-soak" method produces nearly the same succulent bean, wash and pick over the beans. Place them in a large saucepan and add enough water to cover them by several inches. Bring the beans to a boil over medium heat and boil for 2 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat, cover and let stand 1 hour before draining, rinsing and continuing with the recipe.

 

Tip:

Dried beans become tough-skinned and sometimes remain irrevocably hard if they are cooked with salt or acidic ingredients such as tomatoes or lemon juice. The beans should be simmered until nearly fully cooked before adding tomatoes, vinegar, or lemon juice. Season the beans with salt in the last 30 minutes of cooking. This will ensure that they will be tender and reduces the risk of over salting.
 

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