Beans are warm and satisfying, healthful, and economical
By LYNNE FOSTER
The other morning, the temperature dropped about 20 degrees in two
hours and winter arrived. It was time for rich, warming, and satisfying
Dried beans fill that bill. And they are healthful too, not
mention economical. An inexpensive one-pound bag goes a long way.
They are available in many varieties and in every grocery
If you want to get “fancy,” there are heirloom and traditional imported
varieties just a Google search away.
Canned beans are quick but not as flavorful, and they are processed as
well, something I see as undesirable. With the dried types
have to plan a little ahead, just a little.
Most require an overnight soak, an easy task. Sift through
beans to ensure there are no pebbles or dirt, place in a saucepan and
cover with water before you retire for the night. One bag
requires 5-6 cups of water.
In the morning, drain and rinse and you are ready to get to get
cooking. If you don’t use them right away store them,
There are thousands of ways to enjoy beans, and every culture on earth
uses them in some form.
Since we are in the South, we’ll start with the good luck dish served
on New Year’s Day -- Hoppin’ John or black-eyed peas and
is served with a mess of robust greens, usually collards.
Much as I love collards, on New Year’s Day I skip them and here’s why.
Our dinner is a bit of a one-tone, colorless mess since I am
superstitious and include a Pennsylvania-style good luck supper from my
childhood of mashed potatoes, served with pork and sauerkraut, cooked
together in a baking dish and flavored with fennel powder and pickling
spices and a little white wine.
Hoppin’ John and sauerkraut is certainly not an inspired menu, and I
wouldn’t serve it to friends. But it gives us two shots at good luck in
the coming year.
FYI: I break the no-processed foods rule for this since I
make my own sauerkraut. I buy the bagged sauerkraut found in
refrigerated area of the market, never the canned.
But, as Richard Watson says on the topic of processed versus fresh food
in “The Philosopher’s Diet,” his uniquely erudite diet book, “You see,
I do know you can’t keep a pig in your condominium.”
By the way, I also use canned tomatoes rather than the mealy and
flavorless “fresh” tomatoes available in the winter.
Hoppin’ John is a Low Country dish with West African origins.
Beans, especially field peas, were brought with slaves from Africa and
rice, thanks to the hard labor of those African slaves, became the
economic engine of the South Carolina coastal plantation
The combination of beans and rice became the staple diet of the slaves
on those southern plantations.
In place of field peas, many people now use the similar and more
commonly available black-eyed peas.
1 cup of
soaked and rinsed dried black-eyed peas
1 dried hot
1 smoked ham
hock or 1/2 piece of salt pork, rinsed and rind cut off
1 cup long
Water to cover
Place first four ingredients in a pot and cover with water.
Gently boil until about 2 cups of liquid remain. Add the
cover and simmer over low heat for about 20 minutes. Do not
the lid. Remove from heat and allow the rice to steam, still
covered, for another 10 minutes. Uncover. Fluff
with a fork
With the rest of the soaked beans I made a slight variation to the
recipe, but I think it was even better than the original. I
about 1 tablespoon of tomato paste, some garlic powder, dried scallion,
chopped celery, and red rice that gave the dish more
Wild rice would do the same. For a change, this was more of a
For some reason tomatoes pair beautifully with beans, maybe because
they are both “new world” foods. I use them a lot in
Another bean dish with West African origins is African Peanut
Stew. Again, you use beans and tomatoes and you add peanuts
ground nuts as they are called in Africa. This recipe came
the lid of Santa Cruz Organic Peanut Butter (creamy) that I got for
another purpose at Conner’s but it sounded so good I got diverted.
You never know where you will find a good recipe!
3-4 pounds of
oil (use peanut oil)
1 cup organic
1 - 14 1/2
oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 cup warm
1 pound dried
garbanzo beans (chick peas), soaked
1 cup chopped
1 cup chopped
Season chicken pieces with salt and pepper.
Heat oil in heavy frying pan. Working in batches, brown the chicken and
transfer to bowl.
Add onions to the pan and cook until brown and soft, about 5 minutes.
Combine peanut butter and tomatoes with 1 cup warm water in a medium
Add mixture to onions, scraping up any brown bits.
Return chicken to pan, add garbanzo beans, carrots, potatoes and thyme.
Reduce heat to medium low, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally,
until chicken is tender, about 1 hour. Serve over cooked rice.
A combo made in heaven, pork and black beans take to many different
flavorings but they are especially good with Caribbean and Latino
seasonings. Leftovers make great tacos!
BLACK BEANS AND PORK
1 green bell
1 small pork
paprika or chipotle powder
2 cups dried
black beans, soaked
1 large can
chopped tomatoes with their juice
pepper to taste
Heat the oil in a large ovenproof pan or preferably a clay casserole
that can be used on both stovetop and oven.
Saute onion, green pepper and celery until softened but not browned.
Saute garlic just long enough to soften it as well. Remove from the pan
and set aside.
Turn up the heat and add more oil of necessary. Coat all sides of the
pork loin with the paprika or chipotle powder. Brown the pork in the
Add the black beans, tomatoes, and the seasonings. Cook in a medium
oven (about 300 degrees) for 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
This can be served with rice cooked with a touch of saffron.
Bread would also be great instead of rice for variation and then you
can sop up the juices with it.
A version of the ever popular Pasta e Fagiole from Tuscany, this hearty
soup includes cannellini beans which I like a lot, although
traditionally cranberry or even red kidney beans are used.
this, I definitely use my Italian clay bean pot.
3 or 4 pork
ribs or a ham bone with some lean meat or 2 small pork chops
Italian plum tomatoes, cut, with their juice
1 cup soaked
beans (I use cannellini)
3 cups beef
A small chunk
of the rind of fresh parmesan
2 dried bay
pepper to taste
macaroni or orzo
parmesan to grate
Heat oil in a skillet. Add onions and soften (do not allow to brown).
Add carrots and celery and stir to coat. Add pork. Cook for about 10
minutes, turning occasionally,
Remove from heat and place the vegetables and pork in the clay pot or
ovenware. Add tomatoes and juice, beans and broth, bay leaves and
cheese rind. Place lid on.
Put in cold oven if using clay and set to 250 degrees. Cook for about 2
hours, checking for density of soup and adding more broth if necessary.
Remove about 1/2 cup of the beans and mash them before returning to
pot. Add the pasta and cook another few minutes but don’t let the pasta
overcook. Season with salt and pepper
Swirl in the butter and grated cheese.
Ladle into tureen or serving bowl and serve warm. This is one soup that
tastes best served warm rather than piping hot
Foster lives in Hatteras village with her husband, Ernie. Together they
operate The Albatross Fleet of charter boats. They actively support the
sustainable practices of the island’s commercial fishermen and the
preservation of Hatteras Island’s working waterfront. Both
to cook seafood and entertain friends, and Lynne loves to experiment
with recipes for locally caught seafood.)