Posted by: A Part of the Solution | October 28, 2010

Vegan Pantry, Part 3: Beans and Legumes

As with mental health, variety is the spice of life in dining. Each food contains a unique profile of components–whether amino acids, lipids or carbohydrates (let alone all three together). When planning for a vegan pantry, more kinds of beans and legumes is definitely better.

Why the focus on beans and legumes? Well, they’re less processed forms of protein than most of  the products now on the market targeting vegans. And less processed food generally contains more bio-available nutrients. Because it’s not enough to eschew animal products for ethical, moral or health reasons; one ought also demonstrate the health and vitality potential to a good vegan diet.

This is a not-complete listing of a good cross section of stuff found easily in North America. Buy organic, and if you buy canned–get low sodium.

Beans and Legumes

Black Beans: or sometimes Turtle Beans. These guys are work horses throughout Central and South America, as well as  the Caribbean. They’re high in fiber and iron (not unlike oatmeal), with a sturdy chew and an earthy bass note flavor. Black Beans are good in veggie burgers, but also rock the house as stews, chilis and casseroles.

Black Eyed Peas: They’re not just for New Year’s Day anymore. These Southern classics are silky in finished texture and just as delightful in a cold bean salad as they are anchoring everybody’s favorite pot of Hoppin’ John. They pair well with Chinese and Indian cuisine notes, too.

Butter Beans: Do not, I repeat DO NOT buy these in a can. If you’re not having them in season, then (for heaven’s sake) get them out of the freezer section. And not all mixed with random carrots or corn or what-have-you. And if they’re called Baby Limas, so much the better.

Great Northern and Navy: Go-to beans for small white bean recipes. Lovely in simple soups and stews. Great Northerns win in blind taste tests, but people are more likely to keep a can of navy beans on hand.

Garbanzo: What can I say? These guys are superstars in the old bean firmament. They make dips, flour, stews from nearly every habited continent, and they’re as great toasted for a snack as they are headlining on a salad.

Kidneys and Cannellinis: Large, creamy and perfect so many different ways. You can’t go wrong with these in your slow-cook bean pots, chili pans or soup tureens. And both convert to luscious dips with a blink of the food processor.

Lentils, French or German: These hold their shape as they’re cooked. And they don’t need soaking to cook through in well under an hour. Simple preparations suit these humble legumes best. Let them simmer with vegetable stock and maybe some sautéed mushrooms or a few spoonfuls of tomato paste.

Lentils, yellow or red: These bright lentils cook down into thick stews or rich soups. Like their northern cousins, they’re the perfect foil for rice. But they’re lower in fiber, as they’ve been decorticated to emphasize their charming color.

Pinto Beans: Pinto beans make great refritos and even better chili. They’re the soul of many a bean dip, and epitomize the cooking of the American Southwest. With a can of these on hand, you’re never far from a delicious, nutritious meal.

Split Peas: Winter would be the poorer season were it not for split pea soup. Set a trivet on the wood stove and let this fiber-rich food source fill your home with the delights of the dish as it slowly cooks its way to perfection. And they’re brilliant when served in myriad cultures across sub-continental Asia.

 

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