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Jun 4, 2010 07:46 AM

Beans (kidney, black, pinto, etc.) - keeping them interesting

After a second bout of diverticulitis I am MUCH more diligent to increase fiber in my diet. Almost every day starts with Fiber One cereal with low sugar yogurt. I'd like to eat a serving or two of beans each day, but they get so boring even though the Bush Brothers and Duke have so many varieties The pantry usually holds some Camellia brand dry beans for Red Beans & Rice.

I really enjoyed some canned black beans after I drained then, chopped jalapeno, onion & cilantro in the food processor, and combined with balsamic, salt & pepper. I guess I am looking particularly for bean salad ideas but open to all suggestions.

For the next few months I've got plenty of fresh rosemary, thyme, marjoram, dill & chives!

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  1. First of all, good for you for addressing this issue with your diet. That's the way to go about it. If sugar's a concern, you should take a good look at Fiber One products and most baked beans, though -- they are almost candy-like. Maybe try to switch to the Aspartame-sweetened All-Bran cereals, or some sugar-free varieties.

    On to beans. Canned beans are a staple for me, partly because we just can't eat bigger batches cooked from dried before they go bad.

    The way you approached the black beans is a good one, and can be adapted to practically any other bean and/or seasoning, herb and acid. Try mixing it up with citrus juices, different vinegars, and any different kind of vegetable. I find salads most enjoyable when the vegetables are cut to roughly the same size as the beans themselves.

    One of my go-to lunches is white beans with chunked canned tuna, celery (a few leaves included), white onion, capers, olive oil and lemon juice. An old standby, but with good reason.

    I also like a semi-mashed spread with garbanzos, onion, bell pepper and olive oil. It sounds too simple, but it's not. Definitely my favorite holdover from my hippie vegetarian years.

    You should also experiment with bean patties and dips. For patties, drain and mash roughly, then bind with some egg, flour or a little of the reserved bean liquid. Any vegetable, herb or spice you like will work here. No rules.

    And pureed dips are similarly open-ended. While I can't stand black eyed peas on their own, they're one of my favorite purees, spiked with fresh lime juice and parsley, maybe a little sesame oil or peanut or other nut butter.

    Also remember when you serve them cold they need more seasoning than when warm.

    5 Replies
    1. re: dmd_kc

      dmd, you can always freeze beans after you've cooked up a pot...just letting you know...that way, you can pull out a packet of them when you want to use them and they won't go bad.
      AreBe, others have also suggested lentils...really great, no soaking, they cook pretty quickly and really are a powerhouse of nutrition and fiber. Here's a very tasty lentil salad that requires minimal ingredients and probably would be very nice with some of your rosemary...the balsamic vinagrette is perfect with it...and I never use radicchio...always romaine...but you could use any lettuce you prefer:

      1. re: dmd_kc

        Most one pound bags of dried beans contain about 3 cups. No law says you have to cook them all at once (though you can freeze them either after soaking or fully cooking if you do). A cup of dried beans yields around 2 cups cooked - only a bit more than a standard can contains, for less money and salt.

        1. re: greygarious

          I know -- I should cook smaller batches or freeze them. But I know myself. I talk myself out of cooking the half bag all the time (too much work, I say -- stupid). And I freeze them all the time, but never end up thawing and eating them.

          Beans and lasagna are two foods I frequently freeze and later pitch after they've become freezer-burnt. My own quirk.

          1. re: dmd_kc

            LOL! I've become quite skillful in my underhand slow freezer pitch. My husband vaccuum packs everything and makes me lable & date with a Sharpie. I still end up pitching stuff, but it's more painful to know it really is/was delicious Guiness braised shortribs from a year ago. You'd think I'd learn. But this IS the year I cook that extra Thanksgivig turkey on the grill...or not.

            1. re: ajcraig

              My fridge's freezer is very basic - just one wire rack shelf, and two rows in the door. I found that getting some shallow wire baskets for the area under the shelf, and a couple of deeper ones for the larger area above, helps TREMENDOUSLY. As much as possible, I assign them contents: vegetables go in one, fruit another, meat, frozen meal portions. I can slide out a basket to easily see what I've got, and am no longer "losing" containers in the rear until the contents are ruined. You can buy all sorts of wire and plastic baskets at pharmacy chains and office supply stores.

      2. As a simple & quick accompaniment to grilled sausages (anything from hot dogs to exotics), I like to season canned black beans with lots of fresh-ground black pepper and cumin (about 1/2 to 1 tsp of each per can) and cook it down until the liquid is almost completely absorbed. Optional is to top the result with shredded cheddar or jack cheese.

        1. I, too, had diverticulitis. That was a few years ago and the following year I had an unrelated partial bowel obstruction (due to an adhesion from cancer surgery). And for a trifecta, I am borderline diabetic. So fiber is REALLY important for me. Fortunately, I love beans and have been eating them just about daily for several years now. I make a big pot of soup every week, using lentils, split peas, or a cup of dried beans. Regardless of the kind of soup, it gets beans in addition to the other ingredients. Small white ones in Manhattan clam chowder, for instance. I now use dry beans exclusively, since they are cheaper and taste better. I have tried the high-end online sources (Rancho Gordo and others) but do not find a significant difference in taste/quality from the way cheaper supermarket beans.

          I endorse Cook's Illustrated's recommendation to soak the beans in salted water but cook them in plain. I also like to add soy or teriyaki sauce to the soaking liquid, which adds some flavor. With beans cooked this way, I add them to tossed salads. My favorite, though, is to cook them plain and when they are hot, pour heated-up bread-and-butter pickle juice over them, and add thinly-sliced onion. This is a tasty side dish, room temp or chilled.

          I have seen brownie recipes that include canned black beans, and on Gourmet's Diary of a Foodie, Doc Willoughby used canned black bean SOUP in the sauce for Steak Diane.

          2 Replies
          1. re: greygarious

            Another post just reminded me that I liked the results when I subbed cooked lentils for a quarter of the beef when making meatballs/meatloaf. I'm not sure I'd have tasted a difference, and the texture was more tender and smooth. You could do this with any cooked bean if you mash/puree them first.

            1. re: greygarious

              Yes, lentils are so versatile! Don't neglect them just because they aren't actually called beans. Dal is one of my favorite cheap and relatively quick meals. (There are a gajillion different types of dal, too many to go into here but there are recipes everywhere.) I also make a more Western-style lentil soup. Start by sweating some diced carrot, celery, and onion with some garlic, thyme, and black pepper. If I've got a leftover ham bone or ham hock, I sweat the vegetables and herbs in olive oil. If I don't, I use diced bacon instead and use the fat from the bacon. Then add the lentils and some water or stock, the ham bone/hock, if you're using that, and a couple bay leaves and simmer it until the lentils are done. You can use basically the same recipe for a split pea soup, except then I add a spoonful of good mustard and just a little drizzle of maple syrup.

              I also make kind of a Moroccan-stype chickpea stew with canned chickpeas and tomatoes. Sweat some diced onion and garlic in olive oil with ground cumin, ground cinnamon, and turmeric. Add a can of tomato puree or crushed tomatoes, some chopped parsley, a couple diced carrots, a few whole cloves, and some fresh squeezed lemon juice. Simmer until the carrots are nearly done, then add a can of chickpeas and simmer another few minutes. Serve over couscous. Tasty, quick and low-labor and also chock full of nutrients and fiber!

          2. I agree with greygarious WRT dried beans. In the past I always a had a few cans of various beans in the pantry for emergencies, but I found a fast and easy way to cook beans in the slow cooker. Plus I didn't like all the talk about BPA lining canned foods. After rinsing and sorting the beans are soaked over night in the SC insert.. just enough water to cover. In the morning the beans are drained and rinsed, leaving the beans in the insert. Place insert in the SC. Add chopped onion and garlic and any other seasoning you want: chili powder. dry oregano. etc. (or nothing) I add salt at the end. Add water to cover by about an inch or two. Cover and cook on low for 6 - 7 hours. You now have the basis of several dishes. What you can't or don't want to use up within several days can be frozen with the liquid. I make pinto beans. Jacob's cattle, kidney, cannellini, black, lentils.... We love them all.

            1. I love that 13 or 15 bean soup (package in a bag), although I make mine more thicker to put on rice like a red, beans and rice. I add veggies too and sometimes a nice healthy sausage. I throw everything in the crockpot before leaving in the morning, dinner's done when I get home.

              I lately have been adding a can of beans to my salads, particularly love a panzanella salad or fattoush with beans. I doctored up a store bought 3 bean salad by adding chick peas, kidney beans, corn and roasted peppers.