Vegetarians and Vegans Eat Beans!

By Martha Marcom

Tofu, when combined with whole grains, supplies some vegetarian protein, but think of tofu as a fast convenience food. Whole beans are the ideal protein component of vegetarian and vegan diets. Whole beans and whole grains, eaten together, have sustained humanity over time. Almost every culture has its classic grain and bean combo. Beans also provide fiber. Properly cooked, they are not difficult to digest, and they are an economical protein. As a whole food, which can be purchased in bulk, they have less impact on the earth than highly processed, commercially packaged foods.

Whole, dried beans need to soak prior to cooking.
Rinse them off and pick through them, discarding an discolored or broken beans.
Soak them overnight, or all day; this is the “slow soak” method.
Here’s the “fast soak” shortcut for dried beans: in a pan, cover the beans with water and bring them to a boil; turn off the heat, and let them soak for 2 hours.

These two soaking methods work with all sorts of shelled, dried beans. You needn’t soak lentils or split peas, however, as they cook relatively quickly.

Here is a gem of a bean recipe from a very discerning cook/yoga teacher:

Maty Ezraty’s Black Beans

Black beans (organic if possible), rinsed
Strip of kombu or kelp
Head of garlic
Chipotle pepper (this is a jalapeno that has been smoked and dried)

After the beans have soaked, cover them with water and add a head of garlic, unpeeled and a chipotle pepper and the kombu or kelp

Cook until tender. This could take up to 2 or 3 hours, depending on the type of bean you are cooking and their age.

Add salt after beans have cooked, or at the earliest, near the end of the cooking time.
(Salting beans prematurely can cause them to remain tough.)

These black beans are easy and richly savory and satisfying. The only thing you need is a bit of advance planning to soak the beans. There is very little actual preparation—the soaked beans just require time to cook.

Beans are made better by seaweed. By adding a strip of kelp and you will be adding minerals as well as helping the beans to cook through more effectively, rendering them more digestible. A properly cooked bean should mash against the roof of your mouth with a press of the tongue.

So, once you have a pot of beans, you could serve them over rice or polenta. Accompany them with a green and an orange vegetable—for summer, grilled carrots and yellow squash and a simple green salad. In the fall and winter, your veggies could be sautéed kale and roasted acorn squash or sweet potatoes.

Then you can recycle the leftover black beans into subsequent meals:

• Add water or broth to the cooked beans and puree a portion or all of them if you like and you have black bean soup.
• Serve them whole with cornbread this time and roasted or grilled mixed vegetables.
• Roll your black beans up in whole wheat chapatis, along with salsa, cheese, and chopped veggies.
• You can also throw the whole beans into soups, salads or on top of a pizza.
• You could puree them into black bean humus and serve them with corn chips and raw vegetables.

When Maty comes to Yoga on High we love to shop and cook fresh seasonal vegetables. In May two years ago, Jerry and I laughed to see Maty going from farmer to farmer at the Market, carefully choosing armfuls of the fattest possible asparagus. Last July when she returned to YOHI, we savored the local corn, slathered with butter and made these beans. Thank you, Maty Ezraty for sharing a killer black bean recipe! (And yes, her name rhymes, the “a’s” are like the a’s in asana)

Maty will be in our neck of the woods in September—at Hilltop Yoga in Michigan.