Friday, September 17, 2010

Cooking Perfect Beans and Chickpeas

After my pressure cooker broke, I have pretty much stopped cooking beans/peas. I just was tired of soaking the beans overnight, boiling them for 2-3 hours the following day and babysitting them to make sure there was sufficient water, etc. And still after all that time some would be undercooked, others overcooked, and often they were not left in tact after the cooking process. Even with my old pressure cooker the beans/peas would be "broken" and tasteless after cooking. Even if you use the beans/peas in an entirely separate dish, they should have a good flavor in and of themselves, right? How to get that wonderful creamy texture while keeping them in tact? How to get the nutty flavor?

At last, I have found the perfect method to cook beans and peas (I mean the dry peas, not green peas, in case you were wondering)! I say perfect because it is so simple and absolutely fool-proof. And joy, the days of soaking are gone.

Supplies: Slow cooker or crock pot.

1. Pick through desired amount of dried beans or peas to remove any rocks, dirt, etc. Keep in mind that once cooked, the beans will increase in size (I would say by 150-200%, roughly, depending on the variety.)

2. Dump in a crock pot (slow cooker) along with 4 times the amount of water. (i.e. The ratio of beans to water should be 1:4; you could probably do less, but I like to stay on the safe side especially considering I am not babysitting this while it's cooking.)

3. At this point you can add some basic seasonings. If I'm making chickpeas for an Indian dish I
will add a few pieces of cinnamon stick, cassia (Indian bay) leaf, salt. If I'm making beans for soup I might add a bay leaf, a few cloves of garlic, roughly chopped onion, various herbs, salt. But doesn't salt make the beans hard as they cook? I heard that too . . . but, at least with this method, it's not true. I think it's absolutely necessary to cook them with salt to get the best flavor.

4. Put the lid on the crock pot, turn to "low" and leave for a good 8-10 hours. (Usually I turn it on before I go to bed. Not sure if this is a safety hazard . . . :-)) At the end, test the beans, I usually will turn it on "high" for 1-2 hours. Again, I think this will vary based on what kind of bean or pea you use. And the joy is . . . I think it's very hard to overcook using this method. Unless of course you leave it on high for 5 hours . . . if I try it I'll let you know.

5. The result -- delicious, perfectly in tact, nutty, creamy, seasoned beans that you can enjoy right out of the crock pot or use to create another mouth-watering dish. With no effort or hovering over the stove!

So glad I found this use for my crock pot! It's gone from being used once a month to once a week, and has happily expanded its life's calling beyond meatballs and velveeta cheese dip.

Try it, let me know how it works.

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