JEFF TIEDEMAN: Bean countingVersatile legume goes well in all sorts of dishes.
One of my nicknames when I was growing up was “Beans.” It was a moniker hung on me when I was a freshman at Crookston Cathedral High School by a couple of upperclassmen, Nick Miller and Gordy Royal.
It had nothing to do with liking to eat beans or anything gastronomically associated with legumes but the fact that those two as kids had watched a cousin of mine — Ronnie Tiedeman — play fast-pitch softball in Central Park and that he went by “Beans” (as was his dad).
But anyone who is now familiar with me knows that beans are one of my favorite foods — any way, shape or form. (Incidentally, North Dakota is the nation’s leading producer of dry edible beans.)
Actually, I did like beans a lot while growing up. My mom made great baked beans (a classic comfort food) as did my Uncle Curt, who always served his with baked ham on Christmas Eve when he and Aunt Harriet invited family and friends over to celebrate the holidays. (Both were from scratch, meaning the beans were soaked before being cooked.)
I even relished those beans and wieners we used to have regularly at our school lunch.
Over the years, I’ve dabbled a lot with bean recipes. Chili is the dish that I’ve probably made the most, and it’s ranged from mild to spicy and usually has at least three kinds of beans. Coming in second would be my “spicy beans,” which also include a trio of beans as well as homemade barbecue sauce.
But those two recipes barely scratch the surface. In the just past two weeks, I’ve made pasta fagioli — from a Dom DeLuise cookbook recipe — and another three-bean dish as well as sampling some tasty store-bought Captain Ken’s Oven-Baked Beans that were given to me to try by my friend, Henry Tweten.
(Captain Ken Freiberg was a St. Paul firefighter from the 1940s to the 1960s whose specialty was oven-baked beans and who eventually began making them for the retail sale from the apartment where he and his wife lived. The baked beans are served annually at the Minnesota Governor’s Fishing Opener and are available in local supermarkets.)
I think there are a couple of reasons why beans are so popular. One is that they are so versatile. Beans can be used in chili (as I noted above), soups, casseroles and even desserts. A few years ago, I was given a recipe for kidney bean brownies that were absolutely yummy. (See recipe at www.grandforksherald.com/ event/tag/group/ Life/tag/food/.) Second, beans are still fairly inexpensive, even canned ones.
Nutritionally, beans are naturally low in fat (free of saturated and trans-fat) and are a cholesterol-free source of protein. Research also shows that a diet including beans may reduce the risk of heart disease and certain cancers.
What’s not to like about beans?
Tiedeman is food editor at the Herald. Reach him at 701-780-1136 or toll-free at 800-477-6572, or e-mail at email@example.com.