Think Global, Eat Local: Beans!

One food that has never gone out of favor and is a staple in kitchens the world over is dry beans.

Fluctuating diet trends may confuse people looking for the healthiest options. But one food that has never gone out of favor and is a staple in kitchens the world over is dry beans. Whether pinto and black beans in Mexican dishes, small red beans in Asian cuisine, red kidney bean recipes of India, or American baked beans, dry beans are relied upon by many cultures as a year-round protein source

And all of these global staples grow in Michigan! The state is the second largest dry bean producer in the U.S.; and the number one producer of black beans, cranberry beans (Ever heard of those? Try the recipe below!), and small red beans (adzuki beans). Cultivate Michigan, which is co-coordinated by the Ecology Center and Michigan State University, highlighted this feature food this past winter due to its prevalence in local agriculture. But the statewide campaign, designed to help farm to institution programs grow, also notes that dry beans are a low-fat source of protein, which are full of fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

Cultivate Michigan recommends institutions and individuals try Michigan dry beans as a salad bar topping, in soups or chili, pureed into a hummus or bean dip, as a side vegetable, or as a meat alternative.

Avoid potential leaching of BPA into your bean cuisine by soaking and cooking the dry beans instead buying them in cans (instructions below). Last month, the Ecology Center released Buyer Beware: Toxic BPA & Regrettable Substitutes in the Linings of Canned Food which found 71% of bean cans tested contained a BPA-based coating on the inside of the can or lid. BPA is a hormonally active chemical. Exposure to “exquisitely small amounts” of the chemical is linked to numerous health problems, including breast and prostate cancer, asthma, obesity, behavioral changes (such as attention deficit disorder), altered the development of the brain and immune system, low birth weight and lowered sperm counts, according to the report.

Additionally, Cultivate Michigan notes that opting for dry beans over canned, allows for “complete control over the amount of added sodium”. But, make sure to take a moment to scan for small bean-sized stones that may pass through mechanical cleaning and processing.

To find Michigan-grown dry beans, visit your local Michigan farmers’ market or check out Cultivate Michigan’s Dry Beans Guide. Below are three resources to connect you with organic or naturally-grown Michigan beans.

Cultivate Michigan’s tips for preparing dry beans

Sorting

The first step in cooking dry beans is to look for and remove any shriveled, broken or discolored beans and foreign material, such as small stones, that may have been missed by the processing facility. Examine dry beans one layer at a time by scooping the beans onto a dry metal pan. After sorting, beans should be thoroughly rinsed.

 

Soaking

After sorting and rinsing, rehydrate the dry beans by soaking them. The U.S. Dry Bean Council offers three different methods for soaking beans:

Hot Soak - reduces cooking time and produces consistently tender beans 1. Place beans in a pot and add 10 cups of water for every two cups of beans. 2. Heat to boiling and boil for two to three minutes. 3. Remove beans from heat, cover and let stand for four to 24 hours. 4. Drain beans, discard soak water and rinse with fresh, cool water.

Traditional Soak 1. Pour cold water over the beans to cover. 2. Soak beans for eight hours or overnight. 3. Drain beans, discard soak water and rinse with fresh, cool water. (Cold water starts the rehydration process slowly so beans will appear wrinkled after soaking.)

Quick Soak 1. Place beans in a large pot and add 10 cups of water for every two cups of beans. 2. Bring to boil and boil for two to three minutes. 3. Drain beans, discard soak water and rinse with fresh, cool water.

 

Cooking

To cook dry beans, cover soaked, drained beans with plenty of fresh water. Simmer until the beans can be gently mashed with a fork. Cooking can take anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours depending on the type of bean. Drain beans immediately to prevent them from over-cooking in the hot water.

Please see Cultivate Michigan’s Dry Beans Guide for a list of 12 different beans and their suggested cooking times as well as a Canned Bean to Dry Bean Conversion chart.

 

Recipe: Cranberry Beans with Broccolini

Ingredients

3/4 pound broccolini

1/4 to 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped

Kosher salt, to taste

Black pepper, freshly cracked, to taste

1 pound cooked Michigan cranberry beans

Yield: 12 1/2-cup servings

Directions

In a large pot, bring four quarts of salted water to boil. Cut the broccolini florets and stalks into bite size pieces. Add broccolini to boiling water and cook until soft and tender, about five to six minutes. In a large sauté pan, warm four tablespoons of olive oil. Add the chopped garlic and gently sauté until golden. Drain the broccolini, reserving the water to reheat the cranberry beans, and add to sautéed garlic, tossing to mix together. Season with salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Reheat the cranberry beans in the simmering salted water. Drain and add the hot cooked beans to the sautéed broccolini, stirring them together. Generously add 1/4 cup or more extra virgin olive oil, to your taste preference. Check and adjust seasonings as necessary.

Recipe provided to Cultivate Michigan courtesy of John Korycki, Director of Culinary Education at Kalamazoo Valley Community College.

 

Published on April 27, 2016