Another bean binge

Kuromame. photo by Ryan Tatsumoto

Yes, I’ve discussed the benefits of the humble legume on many occasions, but since I’ve retired from the day job and inflation still keeps most cuts of beef in the double digit per pound range and chicken well above $5 per pound, what better source of affordable protein is there? Not to mention that animal proteins aren’t fortified with healthy soluble fibers and lower glycemic index starches, whereas that humble legume is packed with them. Just balance your legumes with other complementary plant proteins like those found in wheat, seeds and nuts and you now have a food source with protein rivaling animal protein packed with additional nutrients while also being cost effective! Sounds like a win, win, win proposition to me!

Starting the Year Right
I actually start the first meal of the New Year with beans, black soybeans or kuromame. Naturally, the first food of the New Year is always a bowl of ozoni, but that’s quickly followed by kuromame (I was taught to always consume at least your age in beans — I’m not sure why) and konbu maki. And though my konbu maki cuts corners with pre-tied konbu from Marukai Market, both the ozoni and kuromame are made from scratch. And while ozoni takes some time to prepare, from creating the osumashi (clear broth) to julienning slices of carrot, daikon (white turnip), hasu (lotus root), mizuna (water cabbage) and gobo (burdock root), making your own kuromame hardly takes any effort. You simply pressure cook the dried beans — yes, this recipe works without pre-soaking your beans. Supposedly adding an iron nail helps to maintain the dark black color of the beans, but I’ve never tried it as our local hardware store only sells galvanized nails that are zinc plated. So you add all the ingredients then set it and forget it … until the pressure is naturally released.


Kuromame. photo by Ryan Tatsumoto

4 cups water
1 cup sugar
1 tbsp shoyu
1/2 tsp baking soda
~1 lb. kuromame (black soybeans)
One iron nail if available

Put water, sugar, shoyu and baking soda in a six-quart pressure cooker pot. Add an old nail. Cook on high pressure for 90 minutes. Let the pressure dissipate naturally and let it sit until cool.

Spread the Beans
Since I’ve highlighted several of my bean spreads over the years, from Edamame Hummus (May 2008), to a Refried Bean Spread (October 2008), to an updated version of the Refried Bean Spread (April 2016), to my Smoked Natto-Mus with both azuki and natto, I won’t rehash any of those recipes here. I will reiterate that mashing any type of bean — either by hand or in a food processor — gives you food versatility like no other spread. For starters, mashed beans can substitute for mayonnaise or mustard in any sandwich, but unlike those spread, they also function as sandwich “glue” that prevents your tomatoes, lettuce or pickles from squirting out the back end of your sandwich after the first bite. And if you combine the mashed beans with tahini (sesame paste) and other grains (wheat, quinoa, amaranth), you now have a protein that’s almost as good as any animal protein, but unlike cold cuts, contains a lot less saturated fat, salt and nitrates.

My Latest Bean Binge
Right before the actual holiday season started (when the sales actually start), I started looking for a ceramic bean pot like the type used in Boston Baked Beans. However, I gave up that quest as reviews of many of these ceramic pots usually turned up the occasional one star rating as the vessel cracked during baking, leaving a mess in the oven. And I realized that I already have a better cooking device, my cast iron Dutch oven, which seals in the moisture better than any ceramic device. But if you find your kitchen lacking any of these devices, whether ceramic or cast iron, just make my No-Bake “baked” bean recipe. I first published this recipe in the May 2003 column, but since I’ve changed it over the years, here it is again.

Ryan’s Seven Bean Not-Baked Baked Beans
1 can each kidney beans, pinto beans, black beans, cannellini beans, garbanzo beans and pinquito beans
2 cans vegetarian or pork-n-beans (save liquid from vegetarian or pork-n-beans)
2 cans chopped tomatoes
1 each green, red, yellow and orange bell peppers, chopped to bite-sized pieces
1 large red onion, chopped to bite sized pieces
1 clove chopped garlic
2 tbsp chili powder
2 tbsp yellow mustard
1/4 cup dark molasses
1/4 cup or 4 heaping tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp olive or canola oil

Heat oil in a five-quart Dutch oven and add onion, garlic and chopped peppers and sauté until the vegetables are softened, about two to five minutes. Add rinsed beans, tomatoes, chili powder, mustard, brown sugar and liquid from vegetarian or pork-n-beans. Simmer until the vegetables are soft and the liquid has thickened, about 10 to 15 minutes. Add water if the sauce gets too thick and stir constantly as the sugar can burn if the pot is left unattended.

I recently started changing how I spice traditional baked beans, which have a sweet component from the molasses, brown sugar and pork-n-beans/vegetarian beans. Since retiring, I’ve planted a limited herb and vegetable garden, and while many of my plantings prematurely die, my rosemary and sage are going gangbusters. So I thought, how about an Italian version of baked beans? Searching the Internet proved that many other home chefs thought about this well before I did…

Italian Baked Beans. photo by Ryan Tatsumoto

Italian Baked Beans
4 15 oz cans cannellini, white or Borlotti beans, drained and rinsed
2 14.5 oz cans diced tomatoes
1 6 oz can tomato paste
1/2 cup diced pancetta
1 small onion, minced
3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
2 tbsp chopped fresh sage
2 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
3 oz sweet marsala wine
Salt and fresh black pepper to taste

1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 oz olive oil
About 2 tsp Italian seasoning

Preheat the oven at 350 degrees.

In a medium saucepan, brown the pancetta, about five to seven minutes over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook for another three to five minutes. Add the beans, chopped tomatoes and tomato paste and bring up to a simmer then add the fresh herbs, balsamic vinegar and marsala. Mix the bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, olive oil and dried seasoning and set aside. Pour the bean mixture into a greased baking dish then evenly top with the bread crumb mixture and bake for 10 to 15 minutes until the mixture is bubbly and the topping is browned.

The Gochiso Gourmet is a column on food, wine and healthy eating. Ryan Tatsumoto is a graduate of both the University of Hawai‘i and UC San Francisco. He is a recently retired clinical pharmacist and a budding chef/ recipe developer/wine taster. He writes from Kane’ohe, HI and can be reached at The views expressed in the preceding column are not necessarily those of the Nichi Bei News.

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