So once again it is Sunday - the week flew by! It was a beautiful Fall weekend here in Austin. Although cloudy yesterday, today is sunny, breezy, with a clear blue sky. Although it is still 90 degrees during the day, the nights are cool in the 60s, and you can tell we are headed fully into Fall. There is a quality to the light and a shortening of the days that just tells you that the growing season has drawn to an end and it it time for jackets, football, and cinnamon spiced foods! Fall foods like apples, pumpkin and squashes are starting to show up in the markets. Fall is also a great time to start eating warming and grounding foods like soups and stews. I made a Navy bean stew to eat throughout the week.
Beans are an excellent high-quality, plant-based protein and are full of nutrients. They are loaded with iron, magnesium, potassium, B vitamins, and soluable fiber. That is all good but do they pass my rules….is it real food, like it comes from nature, and can I make it at home? Yes! There are so many things you can do with beans….add to soup, mash them and cook them into refried beans and eat in tacos or quesadillas, add to salads. The options are really endless.
Beans come pre-cooked in cans and are great to use when you are short on time.
Eden brand beans are an excellent option. They are available in most big grocery stores. They are in a BPA free lined can, are organic and are made with purified water with no added salt or chemical additives of any kind. They are also cooked with kombu.
Kombu is a Japanese seeweed that helps makes beans more digestible. It is available in the Asian section of many stores, or can be bought from amazon. It doesn't really add much taste. It does add a little bit of iodine which you may need in your diet if you limit your added table salt. When you cook beans you just add a couple of strips during the cooking, and fish it out when you are finished.
Although canned beans are great, dried beans are the best option. They are cheap! I bought 1/2 pound of Navy beans in the bulk bin at Central Market for 98 cents! Using the bulk bins is a good option as you can buy as little as you like and not ending up with the odds and ends of unused beans in your pantry. Dried beans require a bit of forethought. You need to soak your beans at least 6 hours and preferably overnight. You can even soak them several days. Sometimes you have great intentions and then don't get them cooked! This softens the beans, they cook faster and helps you digest them better.
Even with soaking, beans can take a long time to cook. If they sat on the grocery store shelf and then sat in your pantry, then can be old. The older they are, the longer the cook time. Just adjust your cooking time to accomodate. Taste them about 30 minutes before the minimum cooking time and if they are still not tender, cook some more, adding more liquid as needed. You can also use a pressure cooker to speed up the process. Also, don't add salt until about the last 10 minutes of cooking as adding it sooner prevents the beans from softening.
This stew uses Navy beans, a smal white bean. You could subsitute other beans like cannellini or even lima beans. The beans combine with fragrant rosemary, hot chli flakes for heat, and sweet potatoes for a little sweetness. Just like the corn soup of few weeks ago screamed summer, this one is definitely Fall!
Despite a good soaking, this stew took about 2 1/2 hours to cook. Don't despair, the beans will get there. Just put on the soup pot early in the afternoon, and go about your Sunday afternoon business. Even though it takes a long time, the hands on time is limited. Your house will smell great and you'll have a nice dinner. In this stew you cook the beans with some aromatics and then about 45 before you think it is finished, add the rest of the vegetables. It will end up thick and delicious. It is a perfect Fall dinner served with a crisp green salad and some cornbread. It reheats nicely and saves well as leftovers for lunch. Enjoy!
Navy Bean Stew
Prep Time: 12 to 24 hours, plus 15 minute
Cook Time: 2 to 2/12 hours
Ingredients (4 -6 servings)
- 1/2 pound (1 1/2 cups) dried Navy beans, rinsed and picked over
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 1 stalk of celery with leaves, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp rosemary
- 1/2 tsp thyme
- 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 pieces of kombu
- 1 sweet potato, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
- 3 carrots, sliced into rounds
- 3 celery stalks, chopped
Put beans into a bowl and cover with water. Let soak overnight or 24 hours. After soaking is complete, drain.
Add olive oil to a soup pot. Heat over medium high heat until hot. Add the onion, garlic, and celery and a big pinch of salt. Sauté on medium low heat until the onion is translucent. Add the spices and cook about 30 seconds until aromatic. Add the kombu and the beans. Add about 4 cups of water, enough to cover the beans by about an inch. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until just barely tender. Start checking at about 1 1/2 hours.
The cooking time with vary based on how old the beans are and how long you soaked them. If they get too dry add a little more water.
When the beans are just tender but not quite done, remove the bay leaves and the kombu. Add the sweet potato, carrots and celery. Stir well, and cook another 30 to 45 minutes, until the vegetables are tender and the beans are done. Taste for seasoning, adding a good pinch of salt and some freshly ground pepper.
Note: kombu is a seaweed that helps make the beans more digestible. It is found in the asian section of good grocery stores. My beans needed to cook about 2 hours plus the time with the sweet potatoes, etc so about 2 1/2 hours.
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