Are You Bean Careful?

by | Dec 3, 2008

Yesterday I mentioned that if you are going to use dried beans for cooking you should pick them over for pebbles before using them. Today I want to show you that I’m not kidding.

For my apartment’s last Soup Night I decided to make a recipe I found in the New York Times. The recipe was for Andean Bean Stew With Winter Squash and Quinoa, and it called for a pound of dried pinto beans. Since I was cooking for 20 people I doubled the recipe and bought a full 2 lbs of dried beans.

That’s a lot of beans, folks.

Because of the huge volume I had to be extra careful when looking for pebbles. To pick through beans I like to lay them out on a large cookie sheet, as shown. You can sort through a smaller amount of beans on a solid-colored plate or even in a clear bag on the counter.

As you can see from the top picture, 2 lbs of beans from the bulk bin at Whole Foods yielded 4 not-so-small pebbles.

Finding these little guys didn’t take more than a minute or two, and I guarantee you my guests appreciated the extra effort.

Let this be your warning. I do not wish to send you into shark-filled waters if you happened to be inclined to go buy dried beans this weekend. The last thing I need is a bunch of angry emails from your dentists!

Lentils are known to harbor pebbles as well, so searching for small rocks is a good habit to cultivate with all dried legumes.

The Soup
On the food front, the recipe turned out absolutely amazing! Since doubling the recipe required two whole winter squash anyway, I chose one large butternut squash and one kabocha squash. Both were delicious, but I was particularly fond of the kabocha (just look at that color!). It was denser, but the texture was creamier and the flavor more sweet and nutty than the butternut.

Peeling the kabocha was no easy task, however. I always just use a vegetable peeler for butternut, but on the kabocha the skin was so tough this was not an option. Instead I boiled it whole for 3 minutes on each side (it floats) and took the skin off with a pairing knife. Alright, I admit I had a boy do the peeling.

Does anyone have an easier way to peel a kabocha?

The Andean stew was very hearty, but our guests were not shy about finishing every last drop. I highly recommend it, particularly for a cold winter weekend.

This picture was taken after the quinoa was added but before it finished cooking.

Don’t forget to bean careful!

UPDATE: I have since learned that a kabocha does not need peeling. If it is cooked through the skin is soft and edible. My new favorite trick is to cut one in half, scoop out the seeds and roast it face down for 40 minutes. Mmmm.

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11 Responses to “Are You Bean Careful?”

  1. Anonymous says:

    FIRST!!!!And finally, a long deserved shout-out on this blog to the hard working, generous, altruistic, industrious, and intensely witty dentists of the world. You-go Darya!

  2. Anonymous says:

    I had a suspicion about the Kabocha, and Wiki confirmed it…….Kabocha (katakana: カボチャ) is a Japanese variety of winter squash. The word kabocha has come to mean a general type of winter squash to many English-speaking growers and buyers. In some cultures it is revered as an aphrodisiac.Aphrodisiac?!!!! What are these so called ‘soup nights’ really then?! (wish I coulda been there)

  3. Michelle says:

    Last time I cooked a green kabocha I left the skin on and just cooked it longer. Way easier and more fiber! I’m going to post about that one soon bc it was the first time I didn’t peel a winter squash!

  4. Steve Parker, M.D. says:

    Thanks for the pebble reminder. I was eating with a friend at a well-respected barbecue restaurant in Austin, TX, when he chipped a tooth on a pebble in the baked beans. Kinda ruined the evening for him.-Steve

  5. Karin says:

    Um, didn’t she shout out to dentists with the whole mouth-rinse thing on the Halloween post? I say enough already, every six months is the max for me….

  6. The Veggie Queen says:

    When a cooking teacher I know told a friend to be sure to sort through beans to get out rocks, the woman asked, “Why would they put rocks in the beans?” She obviously didn’t know that they grow in the ground, and don’t just come in cans.Your blog is inspiring, and you cook the way that I do. Keep up the good work.

  7. Anonymous says:

    As a Japanese person, I feel like it’s my cultural imperative to know how to peel a kabocha. I do not. All I know is that I’ve seen it served before cooked, but skin on.-Dank

  8. Darya Pino says:

    Michelle:I have heard about cooking it with the skin on, and it sounds really appealing! I’m not sure if that would have helped me with my soup, but it is definitely a good idea for the future. Looking forward to your post :)—–Steve:Too bad you can’t scan your beans after they’re cooked! Yikes!!—–Veggie Queen:Thanks for the encouragement! I love what I do :)—–Dank:We’re here to help! The boiling method worked pretty well. You can tell people you know how to peel one if you want….

  9. Katie says:

    Great post, and thanks for the warning!

  10. Mike says:

    ‘Why would they put rocks in the beans……’ hilarious!

  11. Daluca says:

    I always cook mine with the skin on. You can chop it up, mix with olive oil and salt and bake it that way at 325 degrees for about 20-30 minutes. Another great way to make soup with Kabocha is Thai style with Coconut Milk, brown sugar, and thai curry (containing galangel, etc.)

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