This is the October 2005 issue of the Low Budget Vegetarian newsletter.
This issue includes:
- About my cookbook - download version now available
- Some notes on cooking beans
- using kelp/kombu with beans
- Food topic - Soybeans
- Coming up in the next issue
We are coming up on my favorite time of the year for cooking - Autumn,
and early Winter. This is the time of year there is the biggest variety
of seasonal produce, and I often build a meal around a vegetable dish,
like squash. This is also apple harvest season here in Minnesota, so we
often do a hot cereal with cooked fruit topping for a warming, change
of pace dinner - it is a very soothing and grounding way to end a day's
- About my cookbook - download version is now available!
The cookbook I wrote, *How to Survive as a Low Budget Vegetarian*, is
now available for purchase as an electronic download in the popular
adobe acrobat PDF format. The price will be $6.00 US.
As I said last month - if you do buy the book, PLEASE take time to look
over the first part of the book. I say that because, with cookbooks,
most people tend to skip straight to the recipes. With my book,
it's the beginning section that will give you the tools to expand your
cooking knowledge, vary the recipes, and learn to cook without always
using a recipe. In that first section I give a LOT of information on
cooking, shopping, meal planning, using spices, all sorts of stuff I
think you will find very useful.
Some notes on Cooking Beans
I've been cooking beans from scratch for over 30 years now, since I got
my first bean cookbook in college - *Living High on the Bean* by
Beverly White. I use beans a lot, and I keep 15 or 20 kinds of beans
and peas on hand from around the world.
I tied together my experience with cooking beans, using methods and
spices from different world cultures, in an essay I wrote on Making
Beans Easy to Digest. This is in my cookbook, and is also available
online (http://www.lbveg.com/Articles/digestingbeans.php). I wrote that
about four years ago.
Lately I've been simplifying my bean cooking, and I have made one big
I am now convinced that most problems from digesting beans come from
improper cooking. Specifically, under-cooking caused by adding salty
ingredients too early in the cooking process.
The only times I have had serious problems digesting beans or peas, is
when they are cooked with a chunk of salty meat, usually bacon or ham
However - I am trained im macrobiotic cooking, and that method always
adds a stick of kombu or kelp (kombu is a Japanese variety of kelp) to
the cooking water, for taste, and to aid digestion.
Well, I like seaweed and it is very nutritious and mineral-rich, so I
use a fairly big piece. And, I kept noticing that my beans and split
peas were taking too long to cook, compared to cooking times in books I
Then it occurred to me - seaweed is salty. So, when I left out the kelp
until the beans were tender, cooking times dropped dramatically. And,
what is more interesting is that the bean dishes were even easier to
digest. It's not that I felt I had trouble digesting beans before; my
digestion just felt a bit calmer.
The only problem with this change in cooking method is that kelp pretty
much shreds and falls apart with long cooking time. (It's the same if
you use a ham hock - the meat gets very tender and falls off the bone
with long cooking time, and doesn't get tender enough with a short
time.) To deal with that, I now cut the seaweed up into small pieces,
either with scissors while dry, or with a knife after it has soaked for
10 minutes or so.
So, summing up - in order to have easy to digest beans, the following
few guidelines are important.
- With most beans, soak overnight (or at least an hour, after boiling
for 5 minutes), discard soaking water and rinse.
- Cook until thoroughly soft and tender - this is the single most
- Hold off adding any salty or sour ingredients until the beans are
The digestive spices I mentioned in my essay - ginger, turmeric etc -
are helpful and nice, but not strictly necessary.
Using kelp/kombu with beans
Kelp, or kombu from Japan, is a seaweed that comes in either sheets or
rolled sticks. It is greenish black in color, and stiff when it is dry.
When added to water to cook, it relaxes and gets soft, and also becomes
kind of slippery and mucilaginous (slimy). When cooked with beans, it
thickens the water a bit to make a nice sauce, and also adds a nice
flavor. Kelp is also used to make a soup stock called dashi, which is
the base for japanese style miso soup - I have a recipe online at
Kelp or kombu is quite nutritious and mineral rich, is an excellent
source of iodine, and also has calcium, iron and phosphorus with traces
of other sea minerals.
If you cook kelp a long time it pretty much falls apart on stirring - I
used to do that with beans. If you add kelp later in the cooking
process, it gets soft but doesn't dissolve, and it definitely gets
slippery and slimy. In a thick sauce I don't notice it so I just chop
it up once it's gotten soft, and put it back in. If you don't like the
slippery texture, you can cook with the kelp and then remove it before
serving - that way you get a lot of the nutritional benefit of the kelp
dissolved into the cooking water. You can either discard the used kelp,
or keep it to throw in with a pureed bean dip like hummus for a bit
Eden brand kombu is widely available in coops and whole foods stores. I
buy kelp in bulk from Maine Coast Sea Vegetables
(http://www.seaveg.com/), a wonderful company that stocks a variety of
sea vegetables sustainably harvested from the Northeast American
coastal waters. If you use seaweed at all regularly it is much more
economical to buy in bulk from them.
Cooking with Soybeans
You hear a lot today about the Miracle of Soy, usually in connection
with processed soy derivatives. In fact the soy-based Vegie Burger is
the poster child of modern vegetarian fare. Soy protein meat
substitutes are also very popular, as are the traditional soy foods -
soy milk, tofu and tempeh, soy sauce and miso.
However, very little attention is given to cooking with the plain
soybean itself. I've been experimenting with it this past month, and I
want to talk about what I've learned.
First of all, soy is one of the longer cooking beans. It definitely
needs soaking before cooking. Boiled, it takes 3 hours or longer, as
long or longer than chickpeas. Interestingly, pressure-cooking soybeans
after soaking takes a bit more than an hour, which is less time than
chickpeas. I haven't yet tried soybeans overnight in a crockpot - I'll
report back in a later newsletter when I do.
So, I recommend pressure cooking as the way to go with soybeans. You
need to be careful, because soybeans have loose skins that can clog the
steam vent in the pressure cooker, causing the cooker's emergency
release valve to let go. (I recall, many years ago, a Soybean Vesuvius
in my mother's kitchen... It was a small pressure cooker, and it was
filled too high.) This is fairly easy to prevent. Add some oil to the
cooking water, and fill the pressure cooker less than half way to the
top. And, most importantly, while the beans are cooking stay within
hearing range; if the hissing noise of pressure cooking abruptly
stops, turn the heat off and deal with clearing the vent. (In all these
years I've only had to clear a vent once, so please don't be scared
away by these cautionary notes - don't overfill the pot and you
shouldn't have anything to be concerned about.)
Once they are cooked, soybeans are rich, soft, creamy and quite bland.
They are not very tasty plain. So, these beans rely heavily on the
surrounding tastes. They seem to get along especially well with sour,
salty and hot tastes, including tomato. Combining a vivid sour taste
with the rich creaminess of the soybean is very satisfying.
Here are the recipes I came up with this month - all of them are posted
in printable form on the site.
Soybean hummus - not as nutty as hummus made with chickpeas, but very
rich and creamy. I like it fairly plain; my wife prefers it with added
ingredients like olives or hot peppers.
Soybean sandwich spread - with mayonnaise, lemon, scallions and olives.
Not all that good as a dip, but very good with whole wheat toast.
Soybean stew - this is with a tomato base and hearty italian spices,
with some burgundy added for a smooth richness to the sauce. Very good.
Some time soon I plan to try soybeans with hot and sour cooked turnip
greens or mustard greens. I'll let you know how that goes.
- Coming up in the next issue
In the October newsletter I want to talk about Dulse, which is my
favorite seaweed, and one that most people seem to like right away.
And, I want to talk about, How to find time to cook beans when you
don't have the time to cook beans.
And that is all for this month.
Happy and healthy eating to you.
- A Request
One of my goals this coming year, is to find good, high-quality sites
on whole foods vegetarian and vegan cooking, to trade links with. I am
going to be nosing around a lot on my own. It will also be very helpful
to me to get suggestions from you.
Any ideas on good vegetarian cooking websites to link to? Any mailing
lists, journals or blogs you like to hang out at that you think might
be interested? Any sites you think I should know about, or you
think should know about me? Please, let me know.
Thanks in advance.
Low Budget Vegetarian Survival