Root-Sprouted Legumes

Sprouted Soybean and Shitake Soup

Sprouted Soybean and Shitake Soup

Sprouted Mung Bean And Pea Curry

Sprouted Mung Bean And Pea Curry

Dried beans and peas are inexpensive, nutritious and satisfying – perfect ingredients for cold weather fare. But many cooks avoid dried legumes, put off by their long cooking time and reputation for causing, shall I say, “gastric distress.”

There’s a simple trick, though, to address the issues of long-cooking time and indigestibility: root sprouting.

You’re probably already familiar with the crunchy sprouts you can pick up in the produce section of most grocery stores; perhaps you make your own.

The process is simple. The seeds are rinsed in clean water, then soaked for several hours until they swell. They are then drained and placed in a container that has plenty of room for growth (dried legumes will expand at least four-fold), typically a glass jar with a piece of plastic screening bound with a rubber band over its top to allow for air circulation and drainage.

root-sprouted mung beans

root-sprouted mung beans

The jar is placed on its side in a fairly warm spot out of direct sunlight and twice a day the seeds are rinsed well with lukewarm water and drained; this prevents the seeds from growing unwanted fungi or bacteria. After several days (depending on seed viability and variety), roots emerge, followed by the “cotyledon” or first leaves.

For our purposes, though, we don’t need or even want the cotyledon to sprout. As soon as the root begins to pierce the skin of the legume, the formerly hard as a rock bean or pea has been transformed by metabolic activity into something soft enough to cook fairly quickly, its undigestible starches transformed into much more easily digested sugars.

Some sprouted legumes, such as dried peas and mung beans, cook up soft enough to eat without becoming mealy and mushy like most cooked legumes. Too, root-sprouted legumes are more nutritious than conventionally cooked dried beans and peas because sprouting results in a spike of nutrients meant to feed the growing seedlings.

And finally, because root-sprouted legumes must still be cooked before eating (unlike fully sprouted seeds), there’s no need to worry about the pathogens, such as salmonella and e-coli, that sometimes cause illness when people eat raw sprouts. Long simmering kills most food-borne microbes, so it’s fine to sprout dried legumes bought off the shelf in the grocery store, rather than buying guaranteed pathogen-free seeds, as is recommended if you intend to consume sprouts raw.

I have had good luck sprouting many different legumes; most will work just so long as they are whole, have skins intact and are not too old. In my experience, chickpeas, lentils, soybeans and mung beans all germinate rapidly and taste great. I have had less luck with black beans, kidneys and pintos, all of which I suspect were too old to be viable. If four or five days go by with no sign of roots, I recommend simply cooking the beans in the conventional manner rather than waiting any longer.

Here are two easy recipes for root-sprouted legumes. The first is a nutritious Japanese-style soup full of the umami flavors found in shitake mushrooms, seaweed and soybeans. The second is for a tart-crunchy-spicy Indian curry that goes together quickly and could make a vegetarian meal accompanied by flatbreads or brown rice, or would also be delicious as a side to grilled fish or meat.

Sprouted Soybean and Shitake Soup

Sprouted Soybean and Shitake Soup

Sprouted Soybean and Shiitake Soup

  •  2 cups root-sprouted soybeans (start with about 1/2 cup dried)
  • 2 cups sliced fresh or reconstituted dried shiitakes (if dried soak 1 cup mushrooms in 2 cups water and reserve the water for the soup)
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 2 cups water (can include the mushroom soaking liquid)
  • 1/2 cup sake or white wine (optional)
  • 1tablespoon dried wakame seaweed, soaked in 1 cup water
  • 1 small bunch scallions, trimmed then sliced into rings, white and green parts
  • salt to taste (may not be needed depending on how salty the seaweed is)
  • pieces of lime for squeezing or good rice or cider vinegar (optional)
  • ground hot red pepper or sriracha sauce (optional)

Place the soybeans, the shitakes, stock, water (and/or mushroom soaking liquid), and sake together in a large pot and bring to a simmer. Cook for about 20 minutes, skimming any foam that gathers on the soup’s surface and discarding.

When the shiitakes and soybeans are tender, add the wakame and cook 5-10 minutes longer. Taste to see if the broth needs salt – the seaweed may have added enough seasoning already.

Just before serving, stir in the chopped scallions. Pour the soup into warmed bowls and serve with lime slices or vinegar and hot pepper on the side, so that guests may add as much acid and heat as desired to their own bowls.

Serves 6-8.

Sprouted Mung Bean And Pea Curry

Sprouted Mung Bean And Pea Curry

 Sprouted Pea and Mung Bean Curry

  •  2 tablespoons oil, such as sunflower
  • 1 large onion, red or yellow, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1/4-1/2 cup pickled jalapenos, chopped (more or less to taste)
  • 4 cups root-sprouted dried peas and/or mung beans (you will need to start with 1 cup dried)
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt (more or less to taste)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 small bunch cilantro (try to find a bunch with roots still on it), rinsed and chopped, including stems and roots

Heat the oil in a heavy pot, then add the onion and saute, stirring for 5 or 10 minutes, until just beginning to turn brown around the edges. Add the garlic and cook for a minute and then add the turmeric, cumin and coriander and cook, stirring for a few minutes. Add the chopped jalapenos, and stir well, then add the beans and peas and stir for a minute or two.

Stir in the water and salt, bring to a simmer, lower the heat and put a lid on the pot. Allow the mixture to simmer for 15-20 minutes, until the legumes are cooked, but still have a nice crunch to them. Stir in the chopped cilantro, taste for seasonings and adjust if desired.

Serve with lime slices on the side for diners to adjust the tartness of the curry, if desired. Serves 4-6 as a main dish, 8 as a side dish.

Maple Syrup Season: Maple Almond Praline Roulade and Roast Chicken Glazed with Maple, Garlic and Smoked Paprika

Sunset Cross-country Ski on Corn Snow to Canterbury Shaker Village

Sunset Cross-country Ski on Corn Snow to Canterbury Shaker Village

Every season has its Trio of Delight. In mid-March the troika is: 1) almost twelve hours of light a day; 2) cross-country skiing on corn snow; 3) steamy sugar houses where maple sap boils over wood fires.

My in-laws, who own North Family Farm here in Canterbury, NH, seem to never sleep during sap season. Maple syrup is nearly half their living (the other half is a combination of hay and wood). It’s hard work, all the tapping and sap-hauling and wood burning and syrup boiling. Never mind the canning and promoting and selling and shipping.

In August, dragging a crate of maple syrup to a farmers’ market feels old. But now, in March, when the sun is rising higher in the sky day by day, and the air is warm enough to stand in for a coat, and the red-winged black birds have returned with their dopey cowbird step-brothers, and the sap isn’t just running, it’s gushing – now, gathering sap and making syrupfeels likes the best job any person has ever had in the history of the world.

Loading Wood to Boil Sap

Loading Wood to Boil Sap

Unless, maybe, you have the job of creating recipes for this year’s fresh-out-of-the-sugar-house maple syrup. So far, it’s Grade A Light Amber. And it’s sublime.

I am tempted to say that you could replace the maple syrup in the recipe for Roast Chicken with Maple, Garlic and Smoked Paprika with another sweetener – brown sugar, maybe, or honey. But don’t. This recipe is really good just as it is. And if you don’t happen to have any smoked paprika on hand (it’s pretty easy to find in grocery stores these day) use regular paprika, or take a chance and substitute any herb or seasoning that strikes your fancy.

As for the Maple-Almond Praline Roulade, the recipe looks long and complicated, but really is pretty fast and easy to put together. The hardest part is making the praline, and that could be left out completely if shy on time or ingredients. Keeping in mind that maple is a subtle flavor, and that the roulade is worth savoring on its own, it would also be delicious with a sauce made from frozen berries, or, in season, fresh ones. Continue reading

Preserved Lemons: Easy to Make, Easy to Use

I recently picked up Paula Wolfert’s beautiful cookbook, The Food of Morocco, in which Wolfert extols preserved lemons as “the most important condiment in the Moroccan preserved lemonslarder.” Fresh lemons, she warns, are no substitute, and I agree.

Brined in sea salt and lemon juice, then fermented for up to a month, preserved lemons take on a melting texture. Their flavor becomes more complex and mellow, as the tang of lactic acid fermentation melds with the lemon’s natural acidity. So while most of us wouldn’t want to eat more than a nibble of raw lemon peel, preserved lemon peel is as addictive as good olives; in fact, olives and preserved lemon are a classic combination in Morocco’s famous tagines.

Preserving lemons at home is easy. All you need are good quality organic lemons (conventional lemons harbor too many toxic chemicals), sea salt and a jar. How long the Continue reading

How to Use up Sprouting Storage Onions: Caramelized Onions

Onions are biennials, that is, they form a bulb the first year of growth (this is what we eat) then send up a flower and form seeds the second year of growth. One way an onion bulb gets a jump on reproduction is to be light sensitive. As the days grow longer after the Winter Solstice on December 21, the onions in our larders sense spring is on the way and begin getting ready to send up a flower stalk. The best storage onions delay this process, caramelized onion soupbut as soon as we begin getting over ten hours of light a day (where I live, that’s in February) even the best keepers are usually turning green in the middle and getting soft. So right about the time I start planting next year’s onions (around twelve weeks before the last frost) it’s also time to do something with last year’s onions before they go bad.

My favorite way to use up onions is to make a big batch of caramelized onions. Sweet, melting, golden caramelized onions are used in regional cuisines all over the world. In Greece, they are mixed with sheep milk yogurt and tossed with pasta and grated cheese, or served atop a dish of lentils and parsley. In France, where they are called “confit d’oignon” they turn up beside grilled meat or mingled with bacon and cheese in quiche. Tuscans strew them over their regional flatbread, schiacciata, along with a little cheese and a few olives to make a light lunch. Continue reading

Potatoes are Comfort Food for the Hunger Moon Month

February’s full moon is known as the “Hunger Moon.” It wasn’t so long ago that people Coconut Apricot Monkey Breadwould face empty larders at the end of winter (in undeveloped countries people are still at risk for seasonal starvation). And even though these days relatively few Americans are at risk of dying for want of food, by the end of winter our bodies are longing for the spring tonics of early bitter greens, sunshine and best of all, the warm brown scent of thawing earth.

Which may be why potatoes are such a comfort to us during these dreggy days. They smell of the earth, don’t they? And they even taste of it in a good way – elemental and solid. Too, potatoes are one of the few vegetables (they’re actually a tuber) whose flavor improves with storage. According to Harold McGee, author of my favorite book of kitchen science, On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen, during proper storage (in the dark at temperatures between 45 and 50 degrees) the enzyme activity in potatoes “generates fatty, fruity, and flowery notes.” Continue reading

Warm Winter Salads

In winter, when our cold-weary bodies are craving warm, filling food, digging in to a big plate of chilly salad greens might not hold much appeal. It’s easy, though, to turn winter greens into a satisfying hot meal. Here are three recipes that do just that. Continue reading