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Cooking Dried Beans
There are many types of dried beans that offer endless opportunities for low-fat, carbohydrate- and protein-rich meals. Whenever possible, we cook dried beans from scratch to avoid the added salt and preservatives in many brands of canned beans. When the time just isn't there, we've discovered that Eden, Westbrae, Randall, Goya, and Sahadi brands process some of their canned beans without preservatives. Most do contain salt, but much of that can be removed by draining and rinsing the beans.
    Most dried beans need to be softened by soaking before they are cooked. This is not necessary for smaller, softer beans, such as lentils or split peas, and even some larger softer types like black-eyed peas.
    To prepare dried beans, spread them on a flat tray and sort through them, discarding stones and shriveled beans. Immerse the beans in cool water to rinse off any dust and to allow harvesting debris to float to the surface. Skim the debris and drain the beans.
    Cover the beans with water - it should cover the beans by 3 to 4 inches - and soak by one of the following methods: (1) place the beans in a cool spot to avoid fermentation and soak for 6 to 8 hours, or (2) bring the beans to a boil, immediately remove them from the heat, cover, and soak for 1 hour.
    After soaking, drain the beans. Add fresh water, cover the pot, and bring the beans to a boil. Then lower the heat and simmer until the beans are thoroughly cooked. Check periodically that the beans are always covered with water and replenish as needed. (See the following chart for the best bean-to-water ratio.)

Variety Water:Bean ratio Cooking time Cooked qty of 1 cup dried after soaking
Black (turtle) beans 3:1 1 1/2 hours 3 cups
Black-eyed peas 3:1 30 minutes 2 1/2 cups
Chickpeas (garbanzos) 4:1 1 1/2 hours 3 cups
Kidney beans 3:1 1 to 1 1/2 hours 2 3/4 cups
Lentils, brown 2:1 30 minutes 3 cups
Lentils, red 2:1 15 to 20 minutes 3 cups
Lima beans 3:1 1 hour 3 cups
Mung beans 3:1 45 minutes 3 cups
Navy (pea) beans 3:1 45 to 60 minutes 2 3/4 cups
Pinto beans 3:1 45 minutes 3 1/4 cups
Soy beans 4:1 2 hours 2 3/4 cups
Cooking Grains
Barley    Combine 1 cup of barley and about 5 cups of water in a soup pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for about 1 1/4 hours, until tender. One cup of raw barley yields about 3 3/4 cups cooked.
Bulgur    Combine 1 cup of bulgur, 1 cup of boiling water, and a dash of salt in a heat-proof bowl. Cover and set aside for about 20 to 30 minutes. When all of the liquid has been absorbed, stir to fluff the grains. If still too chewy, add another 1/2 to 1 cup of boiling water. One cup of raw bulgur yields about 2 1/2 cups cooked.
Couscous    Traditionally, couscous is steamed over a simmering soup or stew. For convenience, combine equal amounts of raw couscous and boiling waer or stock in a heat-proof bowl. Cover tightly and let sit for about 5 minutes. Stir to fluff the grains, adding a small amount of water if the grains of couscous are still crunchy.
Kasha (buckwheat groats)    Bring to a boil 2 cups of stock or water, a pinch of salt and pepper, and a teaspoon of oil. Meanwhile, in a skillet that has a tight-fighting lid, dry-roast 1 cup of kasha on medium heat, until fragrant. Add the boiling liquid, cover, and simmer on very low heat for 15 minutes. Fluff the grains with a fork before serving. For a breakfast cereal, use 3 cups of water or milk and 1/2 cup of grain.
Millet    Combine 1 cup of millet, a pinch of salt, and 1 3/4 cups of water in a heavy saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, stir, and gently simmer for about 20 minutes. Stir to fluff the grains - if it's still a little crunchy, add 1/4 cup of boiling water, cover, and steam for 10 minutes more.
Polenta    Bring 3 cups of salted water to a boil in a heavy saucepan. Add 1 cup of cornmeal in a thin, steady stream while whisking briskly. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. For a creamier consistency, cook longer on very low heat, stirring frequently to prevent sticking. One cup of cornmeal yields 3 cups of polenta.
Quinoa    Thoroughly rinse 1 cup of quinoa in a fine strainer. Combine the quinoa and 2 cups of water in a saucepan, bring to a boil, then cover, lower the heat, and gently simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, until tender and transparent. One cup of raw quinoa yields about 4 cups cooked.
Rice    Different varieties require different methods of cooking, so here's the scoop.
    arborio rice - To make Risotto, see recipe index. Arborio rice can also be baked, using about 3 cups or liquid for every cup of rice.
basmati rice - To cook brown basmati rice, follow the instructions for brown rice using 2 1/4 cups of water for each cup of rice. We recommend imported Italian white basmati rice. Rinse 1 cup of rice until the rinsing water is clear. Drain well, cover with 2 cups of cool water, and soak for 30 minutes. Drain the soaking water into a heavy saucepan and bring it to a boil. Then add the rinsed rice, lower the heat, cover, and simmer for about 15 minutes, until all the liquid is absorbed. Fluff the grains with a fork and let sit for 5 minutes before serving.
brown rice - Rinse 1 cup of rice well and let drain. Combine the rinsed rice and 2 cups of water in a heavy saucepan with a tight-fitting lid. (For greater quantities of rice, lower the proportion of water to rice: For example, for 3 cups of rice, use only about 4 1/2 cups of water.) Cover and bring to a boil on high heat. When steam escapes from below the lid, lower the heat to very low and simmer for about 35 minutes, or until all of the water has been absorbed. Stir to fluff before serving. One cup of raw rice yields about 3 cups cooked.
jasmine rice - Rinse 1 cup of rice well and let drain. Combine the rinsed rice and 1 1/2 cups of boiling water in a saucepan. Cover and return to a boil, reduce the heat, and cook for about 15 minutes, until tender. Remove from the heat and allow to sit for 5 minutes before serving.
white rice - Combine 1 cup of rice and 1 3/4 cups of water in a heavy saucepan with a snug lig. Bring to a boil and when steam escapes from beneath the lid, lower the heat and simmer gently for about 15 to 20 minutes, until all of the water is absorbed. Avoid using "instant" or "minute" types, since their flavor and texture are markedly inferior.
Cooking and Storing Artichokes
You can tell that an artichoke is fresh if the leaves are tightly packed and it feels heavy for its size.

To store artichokes wash them in cold water and then place them, still wet, in a plastic bag in the fridge. They should keep for at least a week.

To cook the artichoke, just remove the first layer of the sharp outer leaves and trim the artichoke at the bottom so that it stands up strait. Then place the artichokes in a pot of boiling, salted water. Cover and boil the artichokes for 30 to 40 min. When the artichoke is ready, just remove the leaves and dip them into a sauce of your choice. You can use butter with lemon and garlic or you can use your favorite salad dressing. Scrape the tender side off with your teeth and discard the coarse leaf. As you approach the center the leaves will become more tender and fleshy. In the center is the delicate heart which is entirely edible.

Cooking and Storing Beets
Beets can be steamed, boiled, baked, or roasted. An easy way to cook them is to wrap them in foil and bake them like a potato. Add a tbsp. of lemon juice once cooked to keep the color.

When you buy bunched beets, separate the greens from the beets by cutting off the greens about 1 inch from the beets. This will preserve the nutrients better than if you keep the greens attached.

The greens are highly nutritious and can be boiled, steamed, sautéed or stir-fried.

Herbs and Spices: Seasonings for all Seasons
Adding herbs and spices to a recipe is a great way to improve the flavor. Herbs generally come from a plants leaves and stems while spices come from a plant’s seeds, roots, bark, flower buds or berries.

Herbs can be used in a fresh or dried form although fresh herbs generally taste better.

For the best flavor it is always best to grind your own seasonings rather than buy them pre-ground. You can further enhance the flavor of many dried herbs by crushing them between your fingers as you add them to a dish.

To keep dried herbs and spices fresh, keep them in a tightly sealed glass or plastic container. Be sure to keep them away from oven heat as this reduces their aroma.

In general, dried herbs have a more intense taste then fresh ones. A general rule of thumb is to use three time the amount of fresh herbs as dried herbs. (e.g. one tablespoon of fresh thyme provides the same flavoring as dried thyme flakes.

Thawing Frozen Fish
Fish should be thawed in its original packaging in the refrigerator or under cold water. Fish should not be thawed at room temperature. Thaw fish only until it has just become pliable. While thawing times vary, a pound of fish typically takes 6 to 8 hours to thaw in the refrigerator or 1 to 2 hours under cold running water. Fish can be cooked successfully without thawing by doubling the suggested cooking time.

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