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COOL FOOD : How to Use Your Bean

August 20, 1992|ROSE LEVY BERANBAUM

Beans from a current crop (the date will be written on the package) require no soaking but should be brought to boil and drained before cooking to help prevent flatulence. Older beans require either an 8-hour (or overnight) soak or a quick 1-hour soak (see instructions) to be fully rehydrated.

* The older the beans, the longer they need to cook to become tender, which is why there is such a wide range of cooking times. It's best to start checking at the minimum time and continuing cooking as necessary.

* Beans will never soften if they are salted while cooking. In fact, once beans are fully cooked, adding salt to the water keeps their outer shell from absorbing more water, thereby preventing them from further softening.

* For the most evenly tender but firm beans, overnight soaking is best, although the quick-soak method works almost as well.

* To keep the outer shells of beans from splitting, cooking water should be just barely simmering.

* When pressure-cooking a large quantity of beans, add 1 to 2 teaspoons oil to the water to prevent foaming, which can plug the valve.

* Allowing beans to cool in the cooking water keeps them moist and prevents splitting.

* The best way to drain beans is to remove them with a slotted spoon to a bowl so they remain whole and uncrushed.

* Marinating beans for at least two hours allows flavors to penetrate, making it unnecessary to flavor beans during cooking.

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