The more you eat, the more you toot
The more you toot the better you feel
So let's eat beans with every meal
No, Benjamin Franklin did not coin that sweet ditty, but he really did say, "Fart proudly," so I felt compelled to include it.
Beans, also known as legumes (because they are of the family Leguminosae or alternately Fabaceae) are, in a word, the bomb. They are probably the most versatile, nutritious, delicious, cheap, easy to prepare and rather (in my opinion) underestimated and underappreciated (and most joked about) little powerhouse of a food - dried beans, that is. ("Green beans" are immature beans eaten, usually whole, while the pod is still tender and before the little beans inside have been given a chance to ripen and dry.)
According to the U.S. Dry Bean Council (never knew there was such a thing), the thirteen most popular dried bean varieties grown in the US (mainly in the midwest) are Baby Lima, Large Lima, Black, Blackeye (yes, the black-eye pea is really a bean), Cranberry, Dark Red Kidney, Light Red Kidney, Garbanzo (aka chickpea), Great Northern, Navy, Pink, Pinto and Small Red. Of course, there are a bazillion other types of beans (including fava beans which I heard are fabulous with a nice Chianti), but these are the most commonly consumed.
So, where was I going with this? Oh yeah...Beans - nutritious and delicious - aside from having lots of fiber (thus giving them their symphonic side-effect), are packed with a perfect blend of protein (16 grams per cup) and complex carbohydrates along with a fair dose of calcium, potassium, folate and even a dash of iron.
I've already touched on bean soup, so I'd like to share another of my new favorite bean recipes compliments of another of my favorite no-nonsense cooks, Mark Bittman. This one actually came from my Runner's World magazine (yes, I run - just very slowly) but also is in his cookbook Kitchen Express (of which I have a copy - it's great). I was hesitant at first to use smoked sausage in a stew but figured it was good enough for my gumbo and finally made the recipe as is. It was hearty and delicious and loved by all!
Cassoulet with Lots of Vegetables
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound Italian sausage, bone-in pork chops, duck breasts, or chicken legs, or 1 pound of a combination of meats
1 tablespoon garlic, chopped
2 leeks or onions, washed and sliced (I used leeks)
2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch lengths
3 celery stalks, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (I omitted the celery because I didn't have any at the time and I'm not a big fan of cooked celery except in clam chowder)
2 medium zucchinis, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 cups canned tomatoes (and juice), chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
2 bay leaves
4 cups canned white beans, drained and liquid reserved in case needed (or frozen like I wrote about a few posts ago)
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock (preferrably homemade from your squirreled away stock of stock in the freezer)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add meat and cook, turning until browned on all sides, about 10 minutes. Remove from pan and drain off all but two tablespoons of fat. Turn heat to medium, add garlic, leeks or onions, carrots, celery, and zucchini; season with salt and pepper. Cook five minutes, or until softened. Add tomatoes and juice, meat, and herbs. Bring to a boil. Add beans and boil again, stirring occasionally; reduce heat so mixture bubbles gently. Cook for 20 minutes, adding stock or bean liquid when mixture gets thick. Fish out meat; remove bones and skin and chop into chunks. Return to pot and add cayenne. Warm through. Serves four.
CALORIES PER SERVING: 580
CARBS: 82 G
PROTEIN: 40 G
FAT: 11 G
(Thanks to http://americanbean.com/ for all the fabulous bean facts. Check it out - there's tons of information and some great recipes at the site!)