Any vegan worth her sea salt relies on beans to anchor a meal, right? As part of my renewed (and weak) budgeting efforts, I’ve been trying to purchase whole foods and utilize more bulk goods. So, in this fiscally-responsible spirit, I asked Ryan to pick up brown rice and dried beans on a recent run to the store. (I believe my exact words were “some dried beans.”) So imagine my surprise and delight when he returned with a 25-pound bag of pinto beans! Wow. That’s love. After clearing out an entire kitchen cabinet for bean storage, I realized I needed to figure out some new recipes for this humble, beautiful little bean. (Did this just conjure images of me happily frolicking in a large leaf-like pile of pinto beans, throwing them in the air? I hope so.)
Pinto means “painted” in Spanish, and refers to the lovely splashes of color on the bean, which turn brownish-pink upon being cooked. Pinto beans, which originated in South America, are the highest-consumed beans in America, though much of this consumption is in the form of refried beans at Taco Bell and other Mexican fast food restaurants. Taco Bell beans are high in sodium and made with vegetable oil, so their burritos should probably not be your daily go-to lunch, but hey, they aren’t the worst option for an inexpensive, quick meal. (Here’s a tip: ask Taco Bell to grill your burrito. Quite fancy.)
Let’s get to the nutritional power punch that is one cup of cooked pinto beans: high in protein (30%), folate, magnesium, potassium, as well as 62% of daily recommended fiber. . . these beans just may confer superpowers upon you! (I can’t help pointing out, once again, that a serving of meat – any meat – contains 0% of your daily recommended fiber. Just sayin’.) Irritable bowl syndrome? Diverticulitis? Yep, these and other lovelies are caused, at least in part, by a lack of healthy fiber in your diet. In short, the nutrients in beans are great for intestinal health and also significantly lower your risk of heart attack, heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. Get your bean on!
I would be remiss if I didn’t discuss the whole “gas” issue (sorry, ladies, so indelicate!). First of all, your body can and does get accustomed to eating more legumes, so be patient (and spend more time outside). Secondly, there are a few ways you can lessen the flatulence factor when preparing beans. Always rinse canned or soaked beans thoroughly, and when you’re cooking beans, skim the foam off the top of the water. Further, if you have access to such exotics, pick up some seaweed called “kombu” and place a piece in with your cooking beans. Not only does this add a salty, delicious flavor, it is also supposed to help with, ahem, digestion issues.
Here are a few suggestions for what to do with that gigantic bag of beans burning a whole in your pantry.
Simple Pinto Pate: simply puree cooked beans (soak them overnight, then drain, rinse, and simmer for 90 minutes in plenty of water – I’ve never met anyone who loved burned beans) with sage, oregano, salt and pepper, and fresh or sauteed garlic. Serve with fancy crackers, pita bread, corn chips, baguette, or raw veggies. On the puree note, dig that immersion blender out, my friend, because we’re officially entering soup season, which lasts for the next 8 months here (we don’t mess around with spring!).
Refried Beans (adapted from Appetite for Reduction)
- 1 t. olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped finely (yes, it’s worth the tears)
- 3-4 cloves garlic (depending on how much you love garlic. I use at least 4.)
- 2 t. coriander
- 2 t. cumin
- 1/2 t. salt
- 1 1/2 cups pinto beans, cooked to perfection
- 1 can tomato sauce or crushed/diced tomatoes (both are good)
- pinch cayenne pepper
1. Saute onion for 3-5 minutes, then add garlic and spices and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Add water if it seems dry enough to ignite.
2. Add beans and tomatoes/sauce and smash with a potato masher. (This also works great for dealing with latent, misguided aggression – give it a try!) If you are feeling passive aggressive, go heavy on the cayenne.
Simple Bean Soup
- 2 cups dry pinto beans
- 6 cups vegetable broth (oh, didn’t have time to make your own vegetable stock this week? where are your priorities?! 🙂 don’t stress, use water)
- 3-4 carrots, chopped
- 1 small bunch parsley, chopped (optional)
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/2 t. salt, pepper to taste (you know I put pepper in everything)
- 1 t. chili powder (I like chipotle chili powder, too)
- 2 t. cumin (you may see this as “comino” when people are using very selective Spanish)
- 1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped (optional)
1. Combine all ingredients, and cook, like, forever (actually 3-4 hours) over low heat. When beans are soft, remove from heat and let cool for a bit, then use your trusty immersion blender (seriously, who invented this thing?!) to, well, blend. Top with adorable dollops of vegan sour cream, crushed blue corn chips, avocado, salsa, toasted sesame seeds, and/or fresh herbs, enjoy with warm tortillas, or serve over rice. . . this is, clearly, a very versatile – not to mention healthy — dish. Enjoy!