Saturday, March 23, 2013

Bean Living

You might think that when I went vegetarian 20 years ago, I would have made dried beans a sizable portion of my regular diet.  After all, even in the early 1990s there was a strong perception that vegetarians mostly ate rice and beans in order to get the complete proteins they no longer absorbed from eating meat.

Strangely enough, though, I was not a big fan of beans.  Maybe it was too many encounters with super-starchy canned beans, maybe it was the fact that cooking dry beans from scratch took time.  Whatever factored into my unconscious avoidance of the stuff, I just didn't eat much in the way of beans.

Now that I occasionally eat meat, it's an even stranger thing that I also eat beans more often.  This, however, I attribute to growing my own shell beans for drying.  Cooking up those dry beans results in much more tender and far less starchy legumes than what I would get from the store, probably because they're much fresher.  (I know, how can something dried be fresh?)

I've also found more interesting recipes for using beans than I used to find, thanks to the general trend in cooking today to mingle cuisines and flavors.  I recently picked up a copy of Spilling the Beans at the library and found several tasty-sounding recipes that I wanted to try.

Since I'm still not a big fan of corned beef and cabbage for St. Patrick's Day, I decided to celebrate the holiday by making the book's recipe for Guinness Baked Beans.

I soaked a mixture of my homegrown Soldier beans and Vermont Cranberry beans before cooking them until tender.  I couldn't find a single bottle of Guinness for the recipe so substituted a bottle of Great Lakes Brewing Company's Edmund Fitzgerald Porter (something equally dark and rich).  The rest of the recipe was pretty standard -- some bacon for flavor, onions, brown sugar and molasses, etc.

I cooked it in the slow cooker for several hours, so the flavors developed nicely, but the beans were still on the wet side.  So I scraped it all out into a baking dish and gave it some more time in the oven so that it might thicken up and get that lovely carmelization on top.  (I think now I would probably just do it all in the oven instead.)

Savory, rich, and very "happy" from the porter, the beans turned out to be a real treat for Sunday supper -- as well as a nice way to start the mornings (with toast) a couple of times during the week.

Though I never got around to taking photos, I did also try a delicious red lentil and sweet potato curry from Spilling the Beans, so I'm looking forward to testing all the other recipes I copied out.

And I've bean enjoying the leftovers!



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