February 09, 2012

Black bean masquerade: glazed black soy beans

I really mean to switch back to cooking dried beans again, but it's so fast to open a can, that it's hard to return to an old, less-convenient habit. But with all the controversy about BPA leaching into canned goods, plus my dismay at seeing how much we recycle, using dried beans just makes more sense. The obstacle is that in the evening, when it's time to wash, sort and soak the beans, I'm done with food. I can't seem to motivate myself to go back to the kitchen and do one more thing. So, I worked out a deal with my husband — if he soaks the beans I will cook them. Read on to see how our first attempt at cooperation turned out. I wanted to make Zoa's Mexican-inspired casserole and needed black beans.

The next morning I glanced into the soaking bowl, and my brain said, "these aren't black beans." I let the thought slide as I rinsed and sorted the beans before putting them into the slow cooker with a piece of kombu. I remembered my husband asking if we needed dried black beans before a recent trip to the store. Wouldn't shouldn't he know if he'd bought them, and where he'd put them? You would think.

Several hours later I returned to the kitchen and my nose said, "these aren't black beans." I fished out a bean, but I already knew what my mouth would tell me. The beans were black soybeans, from way back when I was cooking macrobiotically. I still had those beans in the pantry.

What are black soybeans, you ask? They are a variety of soybean, but they don't look or taste like the more familiar yellow soybeans, and the texture of the cooked beans is firmer than dried beans like kidney and pinto. I want to say they have slight liver-overtones but I don't want to scare you off, so just ignore that. And no one has ever agreed with me about that, anyway. I've never had the canned variety, only the dried, and I think they are rich-tasting and delicious, but I couldn't see making them into a Mexican dish, so opted for a nontraditional version of a more traditional Japanese dish — kuromame. Kuromame is eaten in Japan during the New Year much the way black-eyed peas are enjoyed here, for good fortune.

The traditional recipes sounded much too sweet to me, so I dramatically reduced the sugar, adding a small amount of coconut palm sugar, tamari and sliced ginger to the cooking water after the beans were mostly cooked, letting the beans cook a couple more hours while the liquid thickened. The finished beans were slightly sweet and salty.

When the beans  were ready to eat, my husband stir-fried some veggies in our gorgeous new wok while I took enough beans for supper from the slow cooker and placed them in a small pot. I used tapioca starch to thicken some of the cooking liquid, and added tomatoes, green onions, and Korean red pepper.

 I have to tell ya, it was a very tasty meal.

The next night I took the leftover beans and liquid, and added them to a hotpot with stir-fried tofu, shredded cabbage, carrots and broccolini. I added some porcini powder to the stock for a little extra depth. (I wouldn't use broccolini again this way because the stems got unpleasantly mushy. I think cauliflower would have been a better choice.)

The hotpot with a garnish of green onions.
When the veggies were tender, I served the soup in bowls over 100% buckwheat noodles, for another delicious supper.


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blahblahblah. I've been nominated for the Top 25 vegan bloggers in the Mom's circle of friends. I don't exactly fit the profile of a young mom raising kids, but hey, I AM a mom and I raised three vegan boys.

My rank is steadily slipping from a "high" of #23 to my current rank at #30. I'm OK with that, but it would be more fun to be in the top 25. I'd be honored to have your vote(s). You can vote once every 24 hours. :D

26 comments:

  1. Kudos on creating such a great meal out of the soybeans! They certainly do look like black beans.

    I used to cook up huge batches of dried beans, then would can them myself (in mason jars), but that was when I didn't work full time. I miss those days!

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  2. I think the whole soaking thing is a habit and it just takes adjustment to get used to. I try to think the night before if anything needs to be soaked. It means staying a step ahead of yourself. Or just use the pressure cooker, I thought you mentioned having one, doesn't that eliminate soaking? We are thinking of getting one.

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  3. You mentioned Blissful Bites not too long ago; would she have had something in there about black soybeans? Either way, it looks like you worked something delicious out! I'm the same way about soaking beans- despite the fact that there is virtually no effort put into actually soaking them, I always feel like I've done enough work having soaked them. (For that reason I bought a box of cooked beans today, knowing I had some at home) Remembering is totally a chore.

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  4. Molly,
    They look less like black beans before they are cooked because they're pretty round. Once they are cooked, they seem to elongate a bit. I'm thinking of making a lot and then freezing them in small packages. Just have to get some containers.

    Raquel,
    I agree. Thanks!

    Bitt,
    You should still soak with a pressure cooker, but there are a couple of shortcuts you can take. Bring beans to pressure. Dump the water and add new water. Bring to pressure again, cook two minutes and they're done. Works for pintos, anyway.

    Foodfeud,
    I looked in her cookbook when I realized the beans were black soybeans, but nada. But I got two delicious meals so I'm not complaining. I think soaking wouldn't be so bad if I didn't have to wash and sort them first. Can I buy pre-washed beans? Hah!

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  5. Your meal looks delicious! I hope you win! I voted for you! Good luck! :)

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  6. I've never heard of black soybeans before. I'm going to have see if I can find them locally and give them a try. I like that you made new meals from your leftovers. That's what I love to do, too, and we definitely do not have as much food waste that way.

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  7. Andrea, this recipe looks great!

    I "quick-soak" beans using my pressure cooker, it works pretty well for most beans as far as I can tell. I just cover the beans with water, bring to pressure, leave at pressure for about 3 minutes, and turn it off. Let it come down naturally, cut a bean and see if it is opaque all the way through. If so, you are done, if not, just let them sit in the hot water for a while, while you are prepping the rest of your meal. Once they are opaque, drain the soak water, re-cover and cook again (in the pressure cooker, of course!).

    However, they still seem to taste better with an old-fashioned, cold-water 6-8 hr. soak! I have trouble getting that set up, too :-)

    XOXO

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  8. Oh, and I forgot, I just freeze any freshly made beans that I am not using in zip-lock bags in the freezer once the beans are cool. You can store them in one-cup measures if you want.

    Just use them as you would canned beans, they work great.

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  9. Cadry,
    Thanks! I probably won't win but I appreciate your vote. :D

    Blessedmama,
    They can be hard to find, and they are seasonal. I think they're available during the winter. The taste and texture are unusual, and I love them.

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  10. Dawn,
    Thanks, Dawn. I described the quick-soak method in one of my replies, above. I agree with you that for some reason beans taste better after a traditional soak — maybe because some of the flavor gets washed away when the water is drained after the first pressure-cooking. If I have the time and attention necessary to attend to the pressure cooker, this works well. I think it's possible to cook beans in a hour, start to finish.

    I'm going to buy some PCB-free reusable plastic storage boxes for freezing two-cup servings of beans — soon. I'll do a traditional soak, then use the slow cooker or the pressure cooker to make a large quantity. I'll have to repeat the process several times to have a varied collection of cooked beans on hand. I used to cook all my beans from scratch. I really did. :D

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  11. I have some dried soybeans in the cupboard (the type you use for Chinese black bean sauce) - I bought them thinking they were the 'normal' Mexican black beans!

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  12. Becca,
    That would be a surprise! I'm sure you know this but in case anyone else reading doesn't, the fermented black beans used in Chinese dishes aren't the same thing as the dried black soybeans I'm talking about in my post. Nope, not even close. :)

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  13. I purposefully try not to read your blogposts right away b/c I learn so much from the comments as well!

    I am trying to take your advice and re-work leftovers into different meals, but you blow me out of the water with your ingredients and knowledge. I'm getting better, though!

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  14. I was so intrigued by your new wok that I ordered one online (from the Wok Shop even!). I am very excited to start using it - it's so beautiful!!!

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  15. Abby,
    I learn from the comments, too. It's so interesting to see what everyone has to say. Usually, leftovers make good eating just as they are at least once. After that, I don't want to eat them or waste them, so creativity must prevail.

    Amy,
    Whoa. Now I feel responsible. I sure hope you like as much as I do! It is beautiful, though, I agree. I was especially impressed when it came out of the oven all bronze-colored. Sigh.

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  16. Those beans look simply mouth-watering! I love the look and sound of both meals. I love all the finely chopped green onion on the soup!

    Your bean soaking plan sounds like a good one. I often forget to soak beans at night too, so I'll bring some to a boil in the morning and then turn the pot off, cover it, and let it sit in the hot water for several hours, then at dinner time the beans cook up in a reasonable fairly quickly, depending on the type.

    I'll head over and send a vote your way...

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  17. Very nice post! Black soybeans are something I've never been able to source locally so I've not tried them yet. But if they're anything like the white ones, I can see why you wouldn't be tempted to put them in a Mexican dish. They don't really break down...but what you did do with them looks wonderful, and of course I'm all over remaking leftovers into totally new dishes!

    The slow cooker would really be the way to go with these, and I'm finding from my own experiments that taste- and texture-wise soaking is unnecessary, especially if you use a slow cooker. Wash the beans, chuck them in on High with some hot water, and in about the same amount of time as soaked beans, they're done. So if you wanted to go that way, you could start 'em in the morning...

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  18. Congrats on your nomination! I'm off to vote after this comment. ;)

    I've had a can of black soybeans in my pantry for longer than I'd like to admit (okay, almost 10 years). I got it ages ago to make a black soybean burger I saw in Veg Times, then never made. But now I don't want a liver burger!! (ha ha--sorry, couldn't ignore it). ;) I also prefer dried beans, but sometimes I'm just too tired or disorganized, and on those evenings, I really appreciate having a stash of cans in the pantry. These dishes look great, by the way!

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  19. Rose,
    There's something about the taste of black soybeans that I find intriguing. And the glossy black color appeals to me as well. They do make a pretty dish.

    I use the boil-then-soak method, too, but there's no getting around the washing, sorting, soaking roadblock for a lazy cook. I just have to pull myself together and do it.

    Zoa,
    Black soybeans are a bean unto themselves. Not for everyone, but I think you'd like them. I may have ordered mine online because they are hard to find.

    I thought soaking improved the beans digestibility as well as made them cook faster. I've always been afraid to put them into the slow cooker unsoaked, but if you say so ...

    Ricki,
    I don't think I'm quite the "mom-blogger" the nominators had in mind. :D But, thanks for your vote(s)!

    So, what is the shelf life of a can of beans do you suppose? And does liver-flavor increase over the years? And, what, you don't like liver-burgers? (Thanks for the laugh!)

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  20. I bought a can of black soybeans for a recipe I was planning to make out of a cookbook I got from the library, needless to say, the book was returned, the recipe was never made and the beans have been sitting there for over a year now. It’s nice to read a description as I never had any idea how the texture or flavour would be.
    I keep telling myself that if I had a slow cooker, I would cook more dried beans….but I know that’s a total lie. I find that the main issue with cooking beans is the part where you have to plan in advance. I’m glad you posted this as it was a nice reminder for me; I haven’t cooked dried beans in ages. I’m going to have to cook a big batch this weekend and freeze some 

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  21. That wok IS beautiful!!!!! And so is the meal - looks delicious and I love that you served it over buckwheat noodles.

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  22. That looks great! We don't use dried beans nearly enough at home, but we're slowly working towards it.

    I'm so sorry to hear about all of your pictures disappearing. That's always my fear as well. Ever since I had a minor photo deletion scare I've backed them up in three different places (not that that makes reintegrating them with a website any easier!)

    Good luck on your restoration!

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  23. Maggie,
    Well, Maggie, I have both a slow cooker and a pressure cooker, but neither one seems to be moving me towards cooking more dried beans. I will, though. Soon. I even purchased a few 2-cup containers so I can make a large quantity and freeze them.

    About the black soybeans — I think you should open the container, taste a bean, decide what flavors would work, then cook something. Might as well use them. I think they work best in Asian-style dishes, but they would probably maker good bean-burgers, too!

    Ashlae,
    I love my new wok! I love my old wok, too — cooking in a wok just seems easier to me for some reason.

    MeShell,
    Dried beans are more economical, more eco-friendly and I think they taste better, too. But ... you know how it is. I'm trying, too.

    I have all my photos backed up, but as your noted, it's a drag having to put them all back into the blog. It's embarrassing, too, to see how truly awful some of them are, especially the earlier ones. I only have one year (!) left to do but I'm having trouble motivating myself to keep going.

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  24. I've gotten canned Eden organic black soybeans before but I can't remember what I thought about them. Your dishes are all beautiful.

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  25. Jenny,
    I've never had canned black soybeans, but the dried ones are very distinctive in taste and texture. I have so many dried ones I wouldn't dare buy a can. :D

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