How to cook beans better

Beans are amazing. Also known as legumes or pulses, beans are super nutritious, packed with vegan protein and fiber, delicious, and cheap. But there are a few things everyone who cooks beans should know before they start.

1. Soak dry beans in water the night before. (Some of you are probably like, “um, obvies!” but I’m gonna go through all the basics for the sake of any newbies reading this). Discard the soaking water (you can feed your plants with it or cook rice with it, just don’t cook beans in their soaking water – it is full of an enzyme that prevents them from softening). There is a short soak method for dry beans; it involves bringing beans in water to a boil and then removing from the heat and soaking for two hours. I find soaking beans in cool water overnight (minimum of 8 hours but I go 24 or even 48 hours) is a better and more effective method. If you live in a very warm climate, you might want to soak your beans in the fridge, to prevent spontaneous fermentation.

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All Purpose Vegetable Broth

Some of the ingredients you can use in a vegetable stock: celery, carrot, onion, shallot, fennel, dill, ginger, garlic, and bay leaves. 

Broth is about adding a savory flavor and complexity to a dish. And it’s always better when it’s home made. If you know you’re going to be doing a lot of cooking, it really pays to make a batch in advance, but if you didn’t plan that far, here’s a quick recipe that will add flavor and character to any dish.

Ingredients

Celery (especially the leaves if you can find them!)
Onions
Carrots (including the tops if you can find them)
Bay leaves
Kombu
Parsnip
Parsley root (very rare. If you see these in the market, don’t think – just grab them)
Other root vegetables that suit your taste
Sea salt

A word of caution about nightshades

Tomatoes often make their way into vegetable broth, and so do peppers. The problem with this is that they don’t work with every recipe. It is best to avoid them if you are making an all-purpose broth and you’re not sure what it’s for. If you’re making a broth for a particular dish in mind, let’s say, a paella or lentils, where tomatoes and peppers would go nicely, there are better ways to include them in the final dish.

The process

Warm up a big ol’ stock pot full of your veggies and water. Add up to a tablespoon of sea salt for a large, 6-8 quart pot. Simmer for about two hours. Let cool, then strain out the vegetables. Use in recipes such as this one.

More food for thought

If you know you’re going to be cooking, why not put a pot of water on the stove and throw in all your vegetable scraps? Onion edges, carrot tops, the parts of the celery you wouldn’t use in a salad or a mirepoix, garlic skins, the outer layer of a fennel or an onion bulb, the stalks of herbs you would otherwise discard… you get the point. These ingredients actually have a lot of flavor that would be put to amazing use in your stock pot. Add a bit of salt and some bay leaves and you’re set. You can simmer this for hours upon hours, making the house smell great, feel warm, and providing you with delicious broth to use whenever you feel the need.

Arab Israeli Salad

I asked my cousin about her favorite food and she immediately told me how much she loves salad. Salad is the food she loves to make with her mom, it’s the food that makes her feel great anytime and brings her the most joy.

To be clear, we’re not talking about no ordinary salad. And we’re not talking about iceberg lettuce and ranch dressing (not that there’s anything wrong with that). No, this is rainbow salad, fucking birthday salad, salad-for-breakfast salad. This is salad with tomatoes and cucumbers and lemon and parsley and sprigs of thyme. This is salad with the protein power of chopped walnuts and pepitas and the anti-inflammatory wonders of raw onion and minced ginger. This salad is not afraid of nobody. This salad is boss.

“It also makes my poops great.” And a good poop changes everything.

The inspiration for this salad comes from the Mediterranean, where one can find many variations of an all day staple interchangeably known as Israeli salad, Lebanese salad, Arab salad, Greek salad… you get the idea. Every locale has its own signature twist, but the elements are consistent: there is always tomato, cucumber, fresh squeezed lemon juice, and olive oil. That is the core of what we know as salad in these regions. We’ve taken this beautiful tradition and we’ve added to it: nuts and seeds, herbs, cheeses, sometimes fish. There’s a Lebanese delicacy; pickled labneh, that will turn this from a side dish to a show stopper. Play around with the variations and don’t worry: there are no wrong answers.

Update: People were asking for an actual recipe, so I posted an Arab Israeli Salad Recipe

Video coming soon.