JEFF TIEDEMAN: Beans at their bestTasty legume ranks high in nutrition as well as comfort. Beans are one of my favorite foods. Among the dishes that we regularly feast on are three-bean chili, pasta fagioli, something I call spicy beans and three-bean salad (in the summer).
The recent weather has been thoroughly enjoyable. Not only has there been a dearth of precipitation (much appreciated after the wet falls of the past couple of years), the temperatures have been pretty moderate, not exactly what meteorologists have been predicting. (Tuesday’s plus-50-degree reading wasn’t balmy, but it’s not bad for the second week of November.)
However, as we all know, the other shoe could drop at any time, and when that happens, you can bet there will be a lot of comfort food being passed around and served at dinner tables in the Midwest.
So what constitutes comfort food? Well, that depends on where you live.
In the U.S., according to a reader’s poll conducted by the website about.com, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and grilled cheese ranked highest among comfort food. Of course, you don’t need a recipe for them, and with those two aside, the next highest on the list were meatloaf, mashed potatoes, brisket pot roast, fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, spaghetti and tuna casserole.
I can relate to most of those dishes. In fact, I’ve probably eaten three or four of them in just the past week or two. The other night, Therese made some delicious oven-baked “fried chicken” along with mashed potatoes and gravy that reminded me of Sunday meals my mom fixed when I was a kid. (For more, go to http://chefjeff.areavoices.com/.)
Another dish that ranks high is baked beans, and I can definitely relate to that. Beans are one of my favorite foods. Among the dishes that we regularly feast on are three-bean chili, pasta fagioli, something I call spicy beans and three-bean salad (in the summer).
Beans are an extremely nutritional veggie. They are high in complex carbohydrates, protein and dietary fiber, low in fat, calories and sodium and cholesterol-free.
Beans probbly don’t top the favorite comfort food list of a majority of Americans, but if you go to England, that would be a different story. A study in 2009 conducted by Mindlab International at the University of Sussex ranked beans on toast No. 1 on a “Comfort Index.” (It was followed by sausage and mash, tomato soup, chicken-mushroom pie and macaroni cheese.)
Neuropsychologists analyzed not only the ingredients of various foods but also consumers’ reactions to the smell, taste and color of the dishes. (They did this by strapping electrodes to their scalp.) They then calculated a formula, containing eight factors, to compile the index, which measured how warming and filling dishes were, as well as how certain foods triggered happy childhood memories.
Now, that’s my kind of science.
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.