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Puerto Vallarta News NetworkEntertainment | Restaurants & Dining | September 2008 

Beans, Beans, the Magical Fruit...
email this pageprint this pageemail usLiana Turner - PVNN


They come in different shapes and colors, but all of the kidney shaped beans are interchangeable for most bean recipes.
 
Actually, I have never been really fond of beans. I will eat them, yes, but they are sort of like filler to me. If there is anything else on the plate, I would rather eat that. Meat, for instance, vegetables, or even rice.

Beans just don't seem to be very interesting. Maybe it's the color. Most beans after cooking turn to a kind of dull brown that is not very appealing. Or maybe it's the squishy, almost grainy texture of them that turns me off.

Whatever it is, I am trying to get over it. Let's face it. Beans are good food, good nutrition, and inexpensive. They are an excellent source of protein, and when combined with grains, such as rice, they combine to form complete protein, which means you will need very little or no meat.

One bean that I do enjoy is soy. You can boil the whole beans for as long as you like, and they never get soft and mushy. They will remain firm and with a slight crunch even if you cook the hell out of them. They are great in salads as a yummy protein boost. Also, they make great snacks. Boil them and drain well, and enjoy. Or, you can fry them in hot oil until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Salt them while they are still hot, and you will have a very pleasing, high protein snack.

How to Cook Beans

Most beans are packaged directly from the field. They are not processed, sanitized and hermetically sealed. They are real food from real dirt. They need to be cleaned before cooking. I like to imagine sitting in a rocking chair with a big bowl in my lap, cleaning the beans like grandma used to do while gossiping with the girls, but usually I just put them in something big and flat and, leaning over the counter I go through them carefully, removing all sticks and rocks and funky looking beans. If you omit this step in the process, chances are you will only do it once. A big dentist bill to repair a broken tooth can be a fantastic learning tool.

The different bean varieties are really pretty similar. There are different shapes, colors and slight variations in texture, but all of the kidney shaped beans are interchangeable for most bean recipes.

After the cleaning, put the beans in a colander and rinse well. Put them in a heavy pot with enough water to cover them and then some more. You can also add a chopped onion, garlic, tomato, celery, carrot, or a combination of any of them. This will add a lot of flavor. Turn on high heat until they begin to boil and then turn to low. Put a lid on the pan, but leave it tilted a bit to avoid the dreaded boil-over.

Once the beans begin to soften it is a good time to add salt. About one teaspoon for every cup of beans is a good guideline. You will need to check the pot throughout the cooking to make sure there is enough water. The worst smell in the food world is probably rotten potatoes. A close runner-up might be burnt beans. You can add more water anytime.

After the beans become tender, the fun begins. Remove the vegetables that you added for the primary cooking. Their job is done now. Its time to add flavor in the way of herbs, spices and flavor, which, to be honest, beans don't have much of. Cook for another 30 minutes or so with the flavorings added. Here are a few ideas for adding flavor to your beans:

Bean Enhancement Suggestions

Mexi-Beans: Cumin, ancho chile powder, cilantro and oregano, diced tomatoes, diced onion, garlic

Asian Style Beans: Soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger and garlic (for this one omit the salt in the cooking process). Sprinkle with sliced green onion.

French, Oh-So-Sophisticated Beans: Thyme, marjoram, sautéed minced shallots and parsley

Country Boy Beans: Liquid Smoke (very little), catsup, dried mustard, brown sugar, sautéed onions, a bit of apple cider vinegar

Yankee Style Beans: Maple syrup, butter

The Irreverent Chef, a.k.a. Liana Turner, is the chef and owner of Paradise Bakery and Catering. Serving the "Best Cinnamon Rolls in Vallarta," along with delicious sandwiches, salads, main dishes and yummy sweet treats every day but Sunday, and providing all styles of catering services, from pre-prepared meals to-go for informal gatherings to full service elegance for dinners, cocktail parties, wedding receptions and special events, Paradise Bakery & Catering is located at Sierra Aconcagua 299, Prolongacion Brasil, Colonia Lazaro Cardenas, Puerto Vallarta. For more information, call (322) 222-5133 or visit VallartaCatering.com.

Click HERE for more articles by The Irreverent Chef



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