Beans – How to Cook
Dried beans are nutritious, flavourful, and versatile, and they are a key ingredient in soups, stews, salads, and many other dishes. Except for lentils and split peas, all dried beans must be soaked before cooking.
Soaking lets the beans absorb water and softens their tough skins, and this results in a more even cooking and a shorter cooking time. As a rule, first rinse the beans in cold water to remove dust and any debris or wrinkled beans that float to the surface. Then place the beans in a bowl or container and cover them with two inches of cold water. Soak them overnight, at least 6-8 hours, and even longer for some varieties. If you cannot soak the beans in advance, a “quick” method can be used. Place the beans in a large pot and cover them with two inches of water. After bringing the beans to a boil, turn off the heat, cover them, and let them soak for one hour. Quick soaked beans will take longer to cook. In both cases, the beans are ready to be cooked as directed, or you can drain and store them in the refrigerator for a number of days.
If you are tired of your vegetables loosing colour, texture, and flavour before you serve them, then blanching may be the solution. Prolonged exposure to heat deteriorates vegetables. Blanching lightly cooks only the outer layer of their flesh.
To blanch vegetables plunge them into boiling salted water for a short period of time, and then immediately stop the cooking process by placing the vegetables into ice water until they cool. Green beans and other fibrous vegetables retain their crispiness and colour. For other vegetables and fruits, such as tomatoes and peaches, a brief blanching loosens the skin while keeping the flesh firm, making them easier to peel. In all cases the colour is set and the flavour is retained. You must remember not to overload the pot because this will increase the cooking time. Blanch in batches if necessary. The vegetables can be used immediately in salads and other cold dishes, or they can be stored or frozen for later use. A quick sauté or stir fry is all that is needed to finish cooking the vegetables, and if they are being added to a dish such as a soup or stew, adding them during the last few minutes of cooking will insure colourful results.
Braising is a wet-heat method of cooking. One benefit of braising is that the liquid absorbs flavours from the foods being braised and makes a terrific sauce.
Usually, meat or vegetables are first seared in hot fat. Then they are simmered in liquid in a pan with the lid tightly in place. To prevent burning, the meat could be placed on a bed of mirepoix (diced carrots, onions and celery), which will keep the food from direct contact with the pot and will add more flavour and moisture to the liquid. Finally, the meat is cooked over low heat for a long time. Braising can be done on the stovetop or in an oven. The indirect transfer of heat in an oven will cook the food more evenly and is less likely to burn it. Relatively tough cuts of meat benefit from braising – because slow cooking breaks down the tough connective tissues. More tender foods like fish and shellfish may also be braised, but must be cooked for a shorter time at a lower temperature in less liquid.
top of page
To moisten food while cooking with a liquid (melted fat, pan dripping, sauce, or other liquid). This keeps the meat, and other foods, from drying out and encourages colour and flavour.
A spoon, brush, bulb baster, or miniature mop can be used. Simply use the cooking juices from the pan and moisten the meat you are cooking.