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How to Cook Beans

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How to cook beans? It’s easy and not as time-consuming as you might think. And wow, are dry beans ever cheap. We have sacks and sacks of beans piled up in the computer room, heaped inside an old-fashioned roaster pan we love, just because we’re out of pantry space but we can’t resist buying every fun-looking variety we see.

Pink beans, red beans, pinto beans, kidney beans. Adzuki, navy, lima. White, black. Chickpea. So many beans, each with their own distinctive flavors and textures. Each associated with a traditional cuisine and a set of delicious dishes.

Quick-soak methods are good for beans you haven’t soaked overnight. Most bean packages come with instructions for quick-soaking, which usually involves bringing your beans to a boil and then rinsing them before the main cooking starts.

Cooking beans is even easier if you remember the night before that you’re going to want beans tomorrow. Just open up a one-pound sack of beans and pour them into a big bowl or pitcher. Cover with water and wait until the next day.

Beans swell considerably, so don’t skimp on the water. However high they are in the bowl, give it half again that level of water. Or even double.

Before you cook your beans, please be sure to rinse them thoroughly.

Do not cook beans in the soaking water.

I can’t stress this enough. You’ll see cookbooks and online recipes that tell you to retain the soaking water because of the vitamins that are supposedly in it. Don’t do it. There might be some vitamins in that water, but more importantly, there are indigestible, toxic enzymes that can eventually cause great harm, and even kill. The danger seems to be a function of the interaction between qualities of the particular bean and the particular individual.

A dear friend of ours nearly died this way — the docs didn’t think he’d make it, but after weeks in the hospital he pulled through. So it’s no joke. Throw out that soaking water!

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