It doesn't matter whether you call them pulses or legumes, beans are one of my favorite foods!
I've heard some conflicting evidence on beans. Some say they are difficult to digest and mildly toxic, while others claim the longest lived cultures on earth eat plenty of beans. I tend to believe the latter more. Just look at the Japanese, they have taken soy, aw very unhealthy bean, and turned it into miso and natto. Two of the healthiest foods around!
These days even the average megamart has a variety of beans to choose from. You can find dried butter beans, organic anasazi beans, and even mayocoba beans. My personal favorite is good old fashioned pinto beans.
Cooking with dried beans is simple. I fill the pot I want to cook with about a third full with beans, then I cover them with water and let them soak overnight. If I can I change the water every three or four hours. Soaking beans is important for the same reason as soaking grains. Its draws out excessive phytates and other antinutrients. It is possible to cook beans without soaking them or to use the fast soak method, but they will not be as healthy.
After your beans have soaked, give them some new water and start cooking. Bring them to a boil then allow them to simmer. I find it usually takes me about two hours.
Whatever you do , don't ass salt until your beans are cooked through! Salt virtually stops the cooking process! Wait until your beans have softened to your preference before salting.
Salt brings up the next topic. Seasoning. Almost any common culinary spice will work with beans. My all time favorite bean spice is cumin. It is almost mandatory for beans here in Texas. Sometimes I will also ad a chili powder blend to make a kind of (I cringe when I say this but I don't know what else to call it) vegetarian chili. Don't get carried away though if your chili powder has salt in it, you can get carried away and easily add too much chili powder and have extra salty beans. Always check the label.
You can make a more greek style bean recipe by using cinnamon, anise and allspice to your beans.
This blog is part of Real food wednesdays.