Pantry Raid III: Cool Beans Transcript

Kroger: Alpharetta, GA - 5:30 pm

GUESTS: Grocery Shoppers 1 & 2

    Each day we ask ourselves the same old question, "what to eat?" Now back when web-sites were places where spiders lived, our pantries and common sense told us what to eat. But, common food-sense has been drowned out by the banter of culinary bodhisattva who hail the food one week only to condemn it the next. As for our pantries, well, what chance do they stand against the kaleidoscope of cornucopia that is the modern mega-mart?
    Where can we turn for something that is good for us and to us at the same time, that satisfies our conflicting inner need for convenience and culinary fulfillment? Well, such questions can freeze an unsuspecting cook in their tracks like a virus corrupted hard-drive. We need a hero to pierce the dark spell of media hype and rescue us from the tower of perplexing plenty.
    Now, anyone who has read their Brothers Grimm knows the answer, magic beans. Whether canned or dried, baked or boiled, pulverized or solidified, beans deliver meatless but meaty satisfaction along with high-octane nutrition and the shelf life of carbon 14. Magic? Maybe. Good eats? Definitely.

The Den

    Dried beans belong to the ancient botanical family, the legumes. And the word 'legume' stems from ... here it is, Latin, lego. It means "to gather, collect," and it refers to our ancient relationship to these little dry guys here.

Lego . . .
just like the toys

    Now actually, there's plenty of evidence that our ancient ancestors knew plenty of beans about beans. For instance, in the Bible both Ezekiel and Daniel thrive on beans while Jacob [sic]±, way back here, actually trades his birthright for a plate of lentils. I hope they were good.
   Now, it didn't stop there. The Egyptians actually called their version of purgatory, The Bean Field, which seems pretty odd until you ump over to the Romans who actually believed that beans held the souls of the dead. A little odd, I think. And of course, the Greeks went so far as to have—ah, here it is, I love this—a bean god named Keonetese{?}.. You've got to wonder what that temple smelled like. Right?
    Now, uh, Plutarch actually referred one time to the habit of the Greeks to use dried beans as ballots in their many elections. He said, "abstain from beans." Of course, he wasn't talking about the food, he was meaning 'avoid politics." To this day, we hold bean counters in a certain amount of contempt.

The Kitchen

    A legume is basically any plant that bears a pod containing edible seeds. Now when young, some legumes like green beans, snow peas or sugar snaps, are tender enough to eat pod and all. But as they age, the pods toughen and that's when we harvest the inner seeds. Great Northerns, for instance, are simply the matured seeds of what we call green beans. Now, many grocery store varieties—say navy, black turtles, pintos, kidneys—are reliable, practical, family sedan sort of beans. Others, say these appaloosas or these soldier beans are called heirloom varieties. They're leguminous oddities recently snatched from the jaws of extinction to star in a specialty catalog near you.

Legumes include:
Beans, Peal, Lentils, Peanuts, Soybeans, Clover & Alfalfa

    Now as all of this diversity suggests, legumes just love to get together and trade their genetic material. Think back to biology 101.

monastery garden, Austria 1865

GUEST: Gregor Mendel, Father of Genetics

    [voice over] Or was it botany? Well, anyway, it's unlikely that that master of the dominant and recessive, Gregor Mendel, would have ever been able to make a career of sexual reproduction if it hadn't have been for the beans.

GREGOR MENDEL: Aah, heh, heh, heh. Ah, yes, yes. Oh, good, good, good, good, good. Ah. Genetik! Zum Spass!

Genetics, what fun!

Due to their genetic diversity, there are over 14,000 varieties of legumes.
Only 22 are grown for human consumption.

The Kitchen

              Mad French Chef, 2 dimensional character

    If I had known that biology was so exciting, I wouldn't have slept through that class.

    Now, uh, despite differences in shape, size, texture, color and flavor, dried beans are surprisingly similar when it comes to cooking. Something that gives them an edge over their nearest pantry-pals the grains which are highly idiosyncratic.


    Allow me to present my bean board.

CREW: Wow!

    Like it? I made it myself. Wouldn't Martha be proud? Herein lie all the possible options leading to successful bean cookery. Now, notice there are no guard rails and there's a pitfall or two, but by-and-large no hidden dangers. Wanna play? I do. I even brought my lucky bean token. So, we can move directly from the starting line to step one: sorting.



    The occasional rock, stick or dirt clod will slip past the sorting technology at the plant, so it's a good idea to give your little ones the once over. Now while you're at it, keep an eye out for any discolored, cracked, shriveled or otherwise lacking legumes. Cooking will not improve a bad bean.


Aside from dirt & rocks, beans contain lots of
minerals including iron, magnesium & zinc.

    Having wisely stopped off at the sorting step, we may now hop happily over the bean pit of despair to step two: washing.



  Most processors don't wash their beans after drying because, of course, that would re-hydrate them which would kind of destroy the reason for being dry in the first place. So, a quick spray will knock off the dust.


    Having wisely washed, we can now leap over the filthy beans and go directly to the next step: soaking. But we have to draw a culinary axiom card.



MAD FRENCH CHEF: All beans must be soaked over night. Then, they may be cooked. That's it.

    Typically, dried beans don't have to soak before they're cooked. But if the don't, they'll take twice as long to cook as soaked beans will. And if they're old beans it will take, like, three times longer. They only exception, really, are lentils and split peas which are small and fast cooing anyway. And of course, black beans can get by with a 3 to 4 hour soak, but everything else gets the long soak.

Split Peas
Black (turtle) Beans

    Dried beans, in this case a pound of Great Northerns, will double in volume during soaking. So, start with enough liquid to cover by a couple of inches. The actual amount of liquid does not matter as long as the beans stay submerged. If they swell up above the water line, they will explode. [pause] Okay, they won't explode. But it will be impossible to cook every bean in the batch evenly because the beans on the bottom will be more hydrated than the beans on the top.

1lb. Great Northern

    Now, I leave these covered and counter-ed over night. But the fridge is okay, too, if not a little slower. You'll know they're ready when a bean splits easily been your fingers and is just translucent on the inside.

    Now, according to the bean board, there is a fast lane option to the slow soak, speed soak, where you simply bring the beans and their water to a boil, take them off the heat and let them sit for about 4 hours. However, the texture of said beans does leave something to be desired. But hey, speed beans are better than no beans at all. Now while that soaks, we do have time to contemplate cooking.


• Bring to boil
• Cover beans with H2O
• Remove from heat, soak 4

Soaking for over 12 hours will result in mushy, flavorless beans.

The Kitchen

GUEST: Thing
            Shirley O. Corriher, Food Science Guru

    So many delicious possibilities, how will we ever decide? Heh. Give the Wheel Of Beans a spin and sit back and enjoy the ride. What will it be? Only the Wheel can say for sure. Give it a spin. Could be simmer, purée, salad, soup, so many possibilities. Aaah. Baked. It's your lucky day.

Wheel O' Beans


    The hardware? Just a pot. But, preferably not any pot. A cast iron Dutch oven. Why 'Dutch'? Because this particular casting process was invented in Holland. Why 'oven'? Because it was originally intended to be buried in the embers of a dying fire. In fact, if you've got a really old one, it'll have little legs and a lip for for stacking coals on top.

Cast Iron "Dutch" Oven

    What makes this particular device so divine? Density, my friend. Lots of density. You see some foods, like our baked beans, liked to be cooked very low and very slow. But modern ovens aren't so good and low and slow because they've got thermostats that cycle them on and off, on and off. That's where cast iron comes in. This vessel will heat evenly and redistribute that heat evenly which is good for beans. Of course, on the inside, teeth. You see, as water turns to steam inside a covered vessel, it condenses on lid. It just drips or runs back down onto the food willy-nilly. These teeth insures that those drips are evenly distributed.

    Now, the software. A pound of bacon, chopped. An onion, chopped. And two jalapeño peppers, chopped. Stir over medium heat until enough fat has rendered out of the bacon to soften the onion. Now if you want to avoid all of that bacon, go ahead and use it, just don't chop it up. That way you can fish the strips out when beans are done. If you want to avoid the bacon all together, well, throw in a quarter cup of good quality olive oil. The beans will stir be darn good, you just won't cry for them when they're gone. This will take about 5 minutes.

1lb Bacon, chopped
1 Onion, chopped
2 Jalapeños, also chopped

THING: [is stirring the food while Alton talks]
AB: Thank you, Thing.

Boston baked beans were popularized by Puritan settlers,
who cooked them on Saturday afternoon and ate them
all through the sabbath when coking was not allowed.

    Now that everything is soft, stir in a quarter cup of tomato paste—that's two tablespoons [sic]—along with a quarter cup of dark, brown sugar and a quarter cup of dark molasses. Now, the acid in the tomato paste and the calcium in the molasses are crucial because ...

1/4 cup tomato paste

1/4 cup dark brown sugar

1/4 cup molasses

SHIRLEY CORRIHER: ... sugar and calcium in the molasses keep the glue between the cells from dissolving. Ordinarily, when you heat fruits or vegetables this glue between the cells dissolves and the cells fall apart. But, if you've got sugar or calcium there, it doesn't dissolve. So, you can cook Boston Baked Beans for days.

    Handy, huh? And so with the Dutch oven hot and allied ingredients standing by, our hero awakens from his long soak to discover he stand at a fork in the road. Namely, do we drain or not drain away the soaking water. Of course, tradition has an opinion.



MFC: You must throw away the soaking water. This is the only way to prevent the tummy music.
AB: Tummy music? What the heck is tummy mu ... oh.

    Oh sure, blame those poor defenseless little beans for your emission control problems. Well, whether you like it or not, the true enemy lies within.

Meanwhile in the small intestine
Alton's intestines

    [voice over] Over the lips, past the gums, look out stomach here it comes. Now, once your latest nosh is mashed to mush in the stomach and moves off to that molecular chop-shop the small intestine. There, chemical sledge hammers called enzymes further dismantle your meal. It is then absorbed by the intestinal wall and becomes body fuel.


Mucosal Villi

    Now unfortunately, beans contain large numbers of humungous sugars called oligosaccharide. Alas, the human tool kit lacks an enzyme capable of cracking such a colossus. So, they skip the absorption step and move off to the large intestines intact.


Later in the colon

    There, a host of voracious bacteria lay in wait for a passing meal. None of this would be particularly compelling but for one fact. You see, when they eat these bacteria get really bad ...

Glutinous Microbe

The Kitchen

... gas. But there are solutions. For one thing, chew thoroughly. I mean, the more the beans are broken down, the better. Now, there are cooks out there that claim the Mexican herb, epazote, preserves gas, but science has yet to bear that one out.

chew thoroughly

    What we do know for sure is that certain kinds of mold produce an enzyme called, alphagalactosidase, which can digest oligosaccharides. So, you can either eat this [piece of moldy bread] with your beans, or you can sprinkle on a few drops of one the commercial applications containing the same enzyme. Either way, you'll be able to digest the whole thing. Temporarily.

bread mold

    So as for the soaking liquid, sure a few of the oligosaccharides have leached out into it. But you know what? So have a few vitamins and a good bit of flavor. So, regardless of what he says, I say don't throw the baby out with the bath water.

or the bathwater
for that matter.

    Of course, that's not going to be quite enough liquid to cook our beans. We're going to have to have at least 4 cups. So, go ahead and top it off with some vegetable broth. That's still not a lot of liquid, really, but this is a braised dish so it really doesn't take much. It does take a tight lid, however. Get that in.

soak + broth = 4 cups

    Now, we finish up with our last seasonings: a quarter teaspoon of cayenne pepper, a teaspoon of black pepper—the fresher the better, and two teaspoons of kosher salt. Excellent. Now, bring this to a boil over high heat. Oh, I forgot to move.

1/4 tsp. Cayenne Pepper

1 tsp. Black Pepper

2 tsp. Kosher Salt

Though it may not amount to a hill of beans, beans
appear in more slang expressions than any other food.

The Kitchen

GUEST: Shirley O. Corriher, Food Super Freak

    Let's see. We seasoned. We added salt. Ah, geez. Him again.




MFC: Jamais Sel! You must never add salt to the water until the beans are almost cooked. Salt will crack the bean.
AB: Did you not hear the lady? The tomato paste and the molasses on the brown sugar are going to keep the beans from cracking. Besides, if you wait until they're finished to add the salt they're going to taste like papier-mâché.
MFC: Papier-mâché? How dare you speak French to me, you fuzzy-headed, ninny hammer.

    As soon as your beans bubble, give them a quick stir, and clamp on the lid, and move into a 250 degree oven. And keep it there for 6 to 8 hours. In fact, I like to start them right before I go to bed and then crack them open and have them for breakfast. Is it worth all that time? Yeah. It is. As a matter of fact, in about 4 hours you're humble abode will fill with an aroma that, well, makes a house a home.


That's right 6 - 8 hours

Lumber camp cooks used to bury cauldrons of beans in deep holes
lined with hot rocks. 2 days later the beans were unearthed & eaten.

    Not in the mood for baked beans? No problem. Just consult the wheel. Ah. Salad. Good. Now all we need is a pot. Oh.

    Now, if we only had half a celery stalk tied in a neat little bundle with a carrot, a few sprigs of thyme, a little parsley and a bay leaf or two we'd really be on to something. Oh, and of course, half an onion ... oh.

2 cups Black Beans

1/2 celery stalk
1/2 carrot

1/2 onion

    Now, 'bay' is a classic bean herb, but not all 'bay' is alike. Now, imported bay—usually from Turkey—is the dried version of laurel, the stuff that toga-types used to wear like tiaras. It lends a subtle perfume to everything it touches, especially beans. Now, California bay on the other hand, is related to the eucalyptus tree and makes everything it touches taste like Vick's Vapor Rub.

    Okay, now add just enough liquid to these beans to barely cover them, okay? Bring it to a simmer, partially cover and cook for one to two hours. But, don't boil. Faced with all that violence, the beans will fall apart. Now, since these beans have neither acid nor calcium to protect them from cracking, wait until they've been simmering for half and hour before adding two teaspoons of kosher salt. And check on the liquid form time to time, adding just enough to keep them covered.

H2O just to cover
Bring to simmer
Partly cover
Cook till soft

2 tsp. kosher salt

MFC: Aah! Sacrebleu!

    Uh, oh. sounds like we've hit another traditional sore spot.

MFC: Beans must be cooked in a large pot of water, three to four times as much as the beans. This will convey more heat and allow a faster cooking.
  AB: You know, I've just about all the tradition I'm going to take out of you.
MFC: Uhhh. Mon deiu. Moron.

    Now, one of the most magical things about beans, is that unlike pasta, beans actually cook faster in less water. Now, just think about that one for a second. [pause] Make your head hurt? Me, too. That is until I talked to my favorite food scientist about plant protein.

SC: Proteins actually absorb water. Now this is proteins in the beans themselves. They're [slurping in sound] soaking in water. But, proteins are also water soluble. So, if you've got a massive amount of water, like in pasta, a lot of your proteins are dissolved out there in the water instead of in the beans [slurping sound] grabbing water for themselves to expand.
AB: So, a small amount of water.
SC: Less is better.
AB: Anything else?
SC: Actually, you can add a little oil to the water to prevent foaming. You can't do that in pasta because the oil will coat the pasta and then it can't absorb that wonderful sauce. But a little oil in beans to prevent foaming is fine.

    Told you she was handy. Okay, when the beans are just tender, kind of al dente, they're reading for yet another magical transformation. Drain the beans, making sure to remove the carrot bundle, and then toss, while hot, with a third of a cup each extra virgin olive oil and lime juice. Toss in a red onion—minced—a hand full of cilantro—chopped—and top it off with a teaspoon of ground cumin and a teaspoon of chili powder. Toss well and chill thoroughly. Then taste and then add salt and pepper to taste.

1/3 cup XV olive oil & lime juice, 1 small red onion - minced, cilantro, 1 tsp. ground cumin & chili powder, chill then season

Beans contain protease inhibitors which can
neutralize cancer causing free radicals.

The Kitchen

GUEST: Carolyn Connell, Dietitian

    Got no time to soak? Got no time to cook? No problem. Hummus is here. That is, of course, if you have a properly stocked pantry.

    It all begins with a food processor. A lot of things do. What you need is 2 to 3 cloves of garlic, chopped fine. Then add one can of garbanzo beans—chickpeas, same thing—along with about half of their reserved liquid. Process, fine or almost fine. Good.

2 - 3 clove garlic (or more)

1 can Garbanzo Beans
(chick peas)
1/2 reserved liquid

    Now add 2, 3 tablespoons of smooth peanut butter, more if you like it, uh, a nice handful of parsley, uh, the zest and juice of one lemon, uh, a few grinds of fresh black pepper—very good—and, of course, a couple of heavy pinches of kosher salt. Process this together until it comes into a paste.

2 - 3 Tbls. smooth
peanut butter
zest & juice - 1 lemon
black pepper
kosher salt


Garbanzos were cultivated in the hanging gardens of Babylon.

  Now, drizzle in about a third of a cup of extra virgin olive oil. You want to bring it just together into a paste consistency, more like mayonnaise, really, than paste.

1/3 cup XV olive oil

  T: [pours in the olive oil]
AB: Thank you, Thing.

    Now look what you've done. You've made humus, the best thing to happen to pita bread, crostini, or celery since, well, I don't know when. Of course, you might want to put it in a bowl.

For a more traditional hummus, replace the
peanut butter with tahini (sesame paste).

    I'm kind of eager to dig in here, so if you don't mind I'm going to turn the bean banter over to my personal Dietitian.

AB: Carolyn, go for it.
CC: Hey, beans are a fabulous source for soluble fiber which is great for you heart and it also can help to lower your blood sugar and keep it more normal. They're a great protein substitute and they're rich in folic acid and calcium so it's a good deal.

    Well, there you have it. Not only are dried beans the prefect pantry fodder, they taste terrific and can save your life, or at least extend it a little bit. And I think that's about as close to magic as we can ever expect good eats to get.

    So, the next time you're driving around and you're kids are in the back seat singing that old camp song ... you know the one ... sing along with them.

Beans, beans good for your heart, the more you eat ...

The Kitchen - Out take

AB: Carolyn, take it away.
CC: Hey, greens ... beans are a fabulous food. They're ... Greens. Why did I call them greens?
AB: Greens are a fabulous food.
  C: I like greens!
AB: Not this show but, uh, you know ...

±Actually, it was Esau who traded his birthright to Jacob for the food, Genesis 25: 29-34.

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Last Edited on 08/27/2010