Two Favorite Tuscan Bean Recipes:
Discovering Great Beans Along With Good
Control While Traveling Through Tuscany
The early morning sun seems to cast a particular gleam of Tuscan gold on the market place as farmers unload crates of exotic shapely purple figs, bushels of sturdy green fennel bulbs skirted with pale feathery fronds, baskets of woodland mushrooms beaded with dewdrops, brilliantly smiling zucchini flowers, and flats of strawberries as mysterious as a cache of stolen jewels. This is the vision I awaken to each morning from the verandah of my small hotel in Montecatini, Italy. Beginning a day in such exalted luxury is enough to level anyone's blood sugar.
The spa town of Montecatini is known for its healing waters and volcanic mud, which meant mud baths, mud facials as well as daily dips and sips of the curative waters. This was my hombres for an intriguing and inspirational adventure of traveling through the towns, cities and hamlets that landscape Tuscany. Besides a daily feast of art, history and culture, I learned to love the healthy Tuscan way of eating ...... natural and wholesome, simple yet refined, creative in harmony and proportion ........ the way we all should enjoy food.
From the center of the majestic cradle of the Renaissance, Florence, to the tiny medieval walled village of San Gimignano, every town has a market square, similar to the one I got to love so in Montecatini. Locals buy their meat, eggs, cheese, bread, herbs, legumes, flowers, fruits, oils and vegetables .....the daily essentials. The two most important principals in Tuscan cooking are quality and freshness of ingredients and simple, unadorned preparation. A typical meal consists of soup and bread, followed by roasted meat, dressed only with a hint of fragrant olive oil and aromatic rosemary, fresh vegetables and for dessert, a little taste of the sweet claimed by Florentines as their very own ingenious Renaissance creation, .... ice cream. Never mind that the rest of Italy believes Arabs introduced ice cream to Sicily and from there it spread throughout the country. This theory falls on deaf ears in Tuscany.
Next best thing to being in Tuscany to is shop and cook the freshest and highest quality foods you can find. Using the best ingredients, you will find that you need less, as flavor in freshness is superior to processed foods. For example to dress a simple salad, composed of a variety of very fresh dark green leaf-ys, all you need to enhance taste and flavor is a quick ll drizzle of fruity, extra virgin olive oil, a squirt of a fresh squeezed lemon juice, salt, a grind or two from the trusty old pepper mill, and Buon Appetito! You have a brilliant salad to feast upon. Legumes are a mainstay on every restaurant menu and in every Tuscan home kitchen.
Legumes are the great culinary workhorses that we often forget when it comes to meal planning. They are a particular asset to the diabetic diet. They are rich in protein, iron, potassium calcium, low in fat, and when combined with one half cup of whole grains, they provide a more complete protein that a burger and fries, with less that half the calories and a smidgen of the fat. And it gets better, 4 ounces of cooked beans contain but 110-120 calories and loads of soluble fiber. Fiber is that indigestible carbohydrate contained in the cell walls of plant foods. Research reports that 3 grams of soluble fiber per day may lower cholesterol levels by 5-6 percent, besides slowing down the rate glucose is absorbed into the blood stream. 20 - 35 grams of fiber are the daily recommendation. How much fiber do you take in each day?
Fiber is composed of many substances such as pectin's, cellulose, and ligins. Soluble fiber dissolves in wate rand is absorbed into the bloodstram. Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water and is not absorbed. Too much fiber can cause gas or diarrhea, so go slowly when you start incorporating fiber rich legumes into your diet.
Below at Recipe Central you'll find a couple bean recipes I found in Tuscany, along with some legume lore to help you jump-start more fiber into your life. Although beans have taken a bad rap, even sarcasm, from the culinary snobs, calling beans, "poor man's meat", yawning at the prospect of discussing beans in epicurean circles, and defining things of little value as not worth "a hill of beans", they are, at last, being recognized with deserved nutritional respect. I, for one, after enjoying the simple earthy delights of Tuscan bean dishes throughout my travels, now understand that legumes are worth a wonderful hill of beans.
Tips For Cooking Beans
Here are a few tips for cooking beans that will come inn handy as you begin to incorporate the humble staple into your healthy diet
- When soaking beans, use at least 3 or 4 times more water than beans.
- Do not add salt to soaking water, it prevents absorption of the water.
NEVER cook beans in soaking water. This is usually the culprit that causes gas discomfort.
- Store uncooked beans in airtight containers. Store cooked beans in fridge. Where they will stay fresh for 3 days.
- An easy way to pick through beans before soaking is to spread on a cookie sheet and remove any twigs or pebbles.
- Don't forget to soak. Soaking beans is the first step to a successful and satisfying pot of beans. Soaking prevents skin from bursting during cooking. It returns moisture and softens the beans, making them easier to cook. Soaking shortens cooking time and breaks down indigestible sugars which form gases. So, don't forget to soak.
|"Ribollita" Tuscan Bean Vegetable Soup|
These might seem like a very long list of ingredients, but one stop at your supermarket and you'll find them readily available and waiting for you. This recipe makes a BIG pot of soup. It ages well, getting better each day. "Ribollita" means rehear. Make this soup once, and it will jump to the top of your most loved soups list.
1 cup dried Great Northern beans, cleaned and soaked overnight
Nutrition Information: Serving Size: 1 cup, Calories: 300, Fat: 11 grams, Carbs: 35 grams, Protein: 14 grams, Fiber: 23 grams
|Tuscan White Beans With Sage|
1 cup cannellini beans, cleaned, soaked and cooked
*Sprinkle with extra parsley and serve as a nice accompaniment to grilled meat, game or poultry, add a salad, and call it supper.
Nutrition Information: Serving Size: ½ cup, Calories: 60, Carbs: 11 grams, Fat: 1 grams, Protein: 4 grams, Fiber: 5 grams