Beans Will Save Us All! (April 2020) Recipes that rely on the ultimate protein powerhouses — beans and lentils!
Veggiecurean Newsletter — Vol. 6 — April 2020
No matter where you are in the world, I hope you’re relaxing at home, safe and sound. As we navigate the global Covid-19 pandemic it’s important that we’re still nourishing ourselves with healthy meals to strengthen our immune systems. Due to working from home and restaurants shutting down, people are looking to their own pantries for easy, quick, and healthy meals to make, which is why this month’s Veggiecurean newsletter focuses on recipes that rely on the ultimate protein powerhouses — beans and lentils!
In my house, we’ve been cooking all sorts of legumes and eating them throughout the week. My favorite way to consume them is to throw them into a soup, especially at this time of the year when it’s still a bit nippy outside. When simmering in a soup pot full of veggies, aromatics, and spices, lentils release flavor and starch, creating a thick and comforting broth. They’re also wonderful when dropped into a salad or eaten on their own, warmed or at room temperature if you have some leftovers.
Legumes are high in protein and fiber and packed with iron, B-vitamins, folate, potassium, and more. Most often, I reach for garbanzo beans (a.k.a. chickpeas), black beans, pinto beans, split peas, and adzuki beans. I also use lentils in all available colors and varieties: yellow, brown, green, red, and beluga (which resembles little beads of caviar), each slightly different in texture and flavor. For long-term storage, I would recommend buying a dozen mason jars with tight-fitting lids, filling them with your favorite legumes, and storing them in a cool and dark place. Both canned and dried legumes will last for 2-3 years, so you can never purchase too much!
You might be wondering if it really matters whether you choose dried or canned beans; after all, there’s nothing more convenient than opening up a can of beans and rinsing off that goopy liquid. I always make sure to have a small reserve of canned beans for the nights when I need a quick throw-together meal, but dried beans are an absolute necessity for many reasons — they’re affordable, they have a greater depth of flavor, and there are a ton more varieties to choose from. The only reason not to love them is they require a little bit more time and effort than their canned counterparts.
So, let’s talk about the cooking process. When it comes to dried beans and lentils, I like to hand sort them by laying them out on a towel to make sure there’s no debris, stones, or shriveled up pieces. Next, I highly recommend soaking and rinsing beans before cooking them. Soaking allows them to cook faster and more evenly, and breaks down some of the complex sugars that make them difficult to digest. (Lentils and split peas are the exceptions, though — unlike other legumes, they cook quickly without presoaking.) To start, place your dried beans in a large bowl with water covering a few inches above the beans (they will expand!) and let them sit for 4-12 hours. If you’re in a rush, you can also combine the beans in a pot, cover with water by a few inches and bring them to a boil, then turn off the heat and let them sit for one hour. Then just drain and rinse, and they’re ready to be cooked!
For cooking, I prefer using a pressure cooker like an Instant Pot to make quick, fuss-free batches of beans and lentils. However, if you don’t have a pressure cooker, simmering them on the stovetop is a time-honored tradition and just as effective! Simply transfer your soaked beans to a large pot and cover them with a few inches of water, then bring them to a boil. Add salt or other seasonings of your choice and turn the heat to simmer, adding more water if the beans begin to look dry. Cook time will vary anywhere from 30 minutes to 2.5 hours depending on the size and variety of your legumes; I like to check the pot every 15 minutes or so to make sure they aren’t drying out. If you’re using a pressure cooker, the steps are virtually the same — just add water a few inches above the beans, add salt/other seasonings, and cook at high pressure for 5-10 minutes for lentils and split peas and 30-40 minutes for bulkier beans. Both cooking methods are pretty hands-off, and both work for most dried beans and lentils. If you’re going to be cooking beans, you might as well make a large batch – they freeze beautifully in an air-tight container for six months, or if you’re looking to use them that week, they can sit in the fridge for up to five days. (The Veggiecurean newsletter from March 2019 featured the history and nutritional benefits of beans and lentils; check it out HERE!)
Cooking is always the activity I turn to for stress relief as it puts me in a meditative state and allows me to be creative and forget the outside world for a little while. If you also find comfort in the kitchen, check out some of my easy bean-inspired recipes below. As always, you can turn to Veggiecurean for your next pantry meal or to connect and share with our community.
Stay safe and healthy!
Avocado Chickpea Dip with Baked Pita Bread
If you love hummus and you love guacamole, you are going to love this dip! It’s super-easy and super-quick — in under 30 minutes, I have a great appetizer or snack ready to go for the whole family. I like to serve it with baked pita, corn chips, carrot sticks, and/or cucumbers, and I also add it to our sandwiches sometimes.
8 whole wheat pita bread slices (cut into quarters)
1 14-oz can chickpeas (drained, rinsed)
1 large avocado (peeled, pitted)
1 cup cherry tomatoes (finely chopped)
1/2 cup cilantro (chopped)
3-4 cloves garlic (minced)
1 jalapeno (deseeded, minced)
1/4 cup lime juice (from 2-3 limes)
Sea salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Place the quartered pita slices on the baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes.
In a mixing bowl, using a potato masher, coarsely mash the chickpeas and avocado.
Add the tomatoes, cilantro, garlic, jalapeno, lime juice, and salt and pepper (to taste), mixing well.
Keep dip refrigerated until ready to serve with baked pita bread.
Cauliflower Lentil SaladI am all about salad bowls, and this one is my go-to for a busy workday. The lentils, cauliflower, and salad dressing can all be made ahead of time, and I keep all the other ingredients together in a bowl so that come noon I have an amazing, homemade lunch in no time. The flavors — crunchy pine nuts, sweet cranberries, salty capers, creamy dressing, and spicy mustard — work perfectly together and are super satisfying.
In a small saucepan, combine lentils and water and bring to a boil.
Cover, reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally until tender but not mushy (about 20 minutes).
Drain excess water, let it cool, then transfer the mixture to a medium bowl.
Stir in lemon juice, olive oil, salt, mustard, and pepper, and set aside. (Lentils can be made ahead of time and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days, just make sure to bring to room temperature before serving.)
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
Toss the cauliflower with olive oil, salt, and pepper, then roast until it’s browned around the edges (about 20-25 minutes).
In a small bowl, whisk together all dressing ingredients (tahini, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, agave, sea salt), then add water one tablespoon at a time to create drizzle-able consistency (if needed).
In a medium bowl, toss arugula, kale, carrots, and roasted cauliflower with a drizzle of olive oil, a squeeze of lemon, and a pinch of salt.
Spread the salad onto a platter and drizzle 1/3 of the tahini sauce on top.
Sprinkle 1/2 cup of lentils, pine nuts, cranberries, capers, and olives, then top with microgreens (if using).
Season to taste and serve immediately.
Yellow Moong Dal Soup
This dal (soup) paired with rice is genuine comfort food for my family. Whenever we all come back from vacation, or my husband or I come back from a work trip, we always have a big bowl of it for dinner. It’s light, healthy, and super-easy to make. Sometimes we eat it by itself as a soup, and other times we have it with vegan naan and cabbage to make it a complete meal.