Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Beans and Burritos

We've had a few nights recently where we needed a quick and tasty solution to dinner. Burritos to the rescue! The ever-evolving burrito. The endless possibility burrito. A burrito by any other name...

First you have beans. Black beans, pinto beans, navy beans, kidney beans, azuki beans, cannelini beans - the list goes on and on. There are hundreds of varieties of beans. There are whole books dedicated to the bean - such as Growing and Cooking Beans and Beans A History . And there are many jokes and lyrical saying about beans.
Beans: you either love 'em or hate 'em or they get revenge. I love beans and they seem to not mind me for the most part so I'm fortunate on that account and so I eat plenty of beans. That is a healthy thing. Beans are loaded with good for you stuff.

You can cook beans in a number of ways (pressure cooker, stove top, baked, stove top and crock pot - the latter is my favorite) and there are endless rules about cooking beans (soak first, don't soak first, change the water X-amount of times, add baking soda, don't add baking soda, cook with kombu (kelp), don't add acidic ingredients while cooking, and never ever add salt until the beans are cooked through.) Everyone has there opinion. But are they "worth a hill of beans"? That's for you to decide. I take it all with a grain of salt. Except for when it comes to salt. That's the one rule I follow when cooking beans. I never add salt until they are soft. I don't like partially cooked beans and the adage that salt keeps beans from softening properly while cooking seems to be true - for me at least.
Or you can just skip the whole cooking thing and go with the far more convenient option (n0 need to plan or think ahead) and use canned beans. I do both. I have a good supply of dry beans and other legumes all looking pretty in their canning jars in my pantry and I also have a good number of canned beans on hand. I've come to only buy one variety of canned beans though. Eden Organic. Why? They are the ONLY company that uses BPA-free cans for their beans. They pay extra to do it. There cans are made specifically for them. Here's the story behind it - it's worth a read. They would can all their other items in the same cans if they could - but the FDA doesn't allow it, as explained in the article linked above. The FDA insists on BPA-lined cans for anything acidic - like tomato products. The theory is to keep the metal from leaching into the food and making it bad for you. Ironic, considering how bad BPA is for us. (I could spend days on my soap box about stuff like this, but I'll spare you - for now.) So that is why I only buy Eden Organic canned beans.

But a burrito is more than just beans, right? I suppose it doesn't have to be but let's just assume we want more than beans wrapped in a tortilla. You could add grains. Any kind of grain would do. There's the obvious and common rice. But what about polenta, quinoa, spelt, kamut, ferro, barley. All are great options. Or no grain. Whatever you like. Next you have the option of dairy and dairy alternative options - various cheeses, sour cream, yogurt. (Sour cream is my favorite.) And salsa. All the lovely varieties of salsa out there to choose from! Two common one's in our house are Muir Glen's Organic Chipotle and their Organic Black Bean. Then there's salsa fresca or salsa verde when the garden (or farmer's market) is overflowing with tomatoes and tomotillos. Finally we come to herbs and vegis. Some favorite herbs to chop up and add to my burritos are cilantro, oregano, parsly, chives, epizote, one of the hundred varieties of thyme. Green onions, fresh corn, avocado, lettuce, bell peppers, jalapeno peppers and garlic are among my favorite vegies for burritos.

Now that we have all these toppings piled onto a tortilla we get to struggle with actually getting it closed up for slightly less messy eating. Or give up and just eat it with a fork like my husband did recently when he piled WAY to much onto the poor little tortilla to even get the sides to touch.

Have a napkin (cloth, preferably) handy and chow down.

Happy burrito making.

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