Sunday, February 7, 2010

To Soak or Not To Soak

Terminology can be so confusing! Legumes and beans are often used interchangeably when talking about this food group. I generally refer to legumes as beans, but here for the sake of clarity I will use only legumes.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with opening a can of legumes and adding them to a soup, salad or other dish. The variety of legumes available in cans is somewhat limited, but they do the job! But, if you have the time and the inclination, preparing and cooking your own legumes is worth the effort. Prepared fresh they taste better and have a higher nutritional value due to less processing. DH likes legumes in his soup, so we tend to eat more of this food group in the winter months. Two big jars containing different combinations of legumes sit on the shelf in the kitchen.

There is disagreement among chefs about soaking legumes. Some chefs believe that soaking for any length of time causes legumes to ferment, negatively affecting their flavor. What follows is how I prepare and cook legumes.

Preparing Legumes

3 c. legumes

Water

1 Tbsp. kosher salt

Wash the legumes, pick them over and place in a large stainless steel pot. Cover with water and add the salt. Bring the legumes to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for ten minutes. Place a large colander in the sink. Remove the legumes from the stove and carefully pour them into the colander to drain. Rinse the legumes. Rinse the pot. Put the legumes back into the pot and cover them with fresh water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for ten minutes. Once again, strain the legumes, and rinse. Wash the pot and place the legumes into it one more time.

Cover generously with fresh water and again bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer the beans for several hours or until they are tender. Make sure the legumes stay covered with water during cooking.

When the legumes are cooked, drain away the liquid and thoroughly rinse.

The legumes can be used immediately, refrigerated for a day or two or frozen for future use.

Makes approximately 8 cups

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