Thursday, March 5, 2009

Cooking Seeds

Cooking Seeds

The process of deciding which beans and other seeds to combine can be fun. I like to try something different every time, and am usually pleased with the result. Beans are rich in protein, and combining them brings more to the table nutritionally. Bean seeds contain legume protein. Grain seeds contain a different type of protein called gluten.

In this particular recipe I have added one grain: spelt. Along with it are mung beans, adzuki beans, black beans, kidney beans, flor de mayo beans, and soybeans. Soy is interesting in that it contains all the essential amino acids for humans.

The ingredients are chosen the night before and submerged beneath water for at least six hours. Absorbing the water plumps the beans up. It awakens them from seed lethargy, vitalizes them and prepares them to absorb heat later.

This process also allows dirt and contaminants to be released from the exterior of the shells. The next morning, the water they were soaking in will probably be a little cloudy. Pour that out and rinse the bean mix in a colander.

Then put your seeds into whatever you plan to cook them in. For me what works is a Crock Pot, because they need to simmer for hours. I can turn it on at 5 AM and come back at 6 PM and know they will not have boiled away into charcoal and sludge.

At this point I fill the Crock Pot half way with water and add a teaspoon of salt. The purpose of the salt is not to season the beans with saltiness, but to keep in their flavor. If you cook vegetables in water with no salt, they will taste flat.

This is NOT because they aren’t salty. Adding salt later will not make them taste better, because the problem is that their essential flavors have leached out into the water.

The juices within vegetables or beans have a higher density or specific gravity (can’t recall the specific chemical term right now) than the plain water in which they are immersed. The heat of cooking weakens the cell membranes and allows a flow from the higher level within the plant to the lower level of the surrounding water. So the good stuff in the plant - flavor, vitamins, etc. - goes out into the cooking water.

To keep this from happening, we add salt to the water while they are cooking. This raises the density or specific gravity of the water. Ideally, we want the level in the water to be about the same as in what we are cooking. This way more of the vital juices stay within the plant membrane, keeping in its nutrients and flavor.

If you are going to be present with the seeds, then you can put them in a pot on a stove top. Make sure the pot has a good lid. Bring them carefully to a boil and then turn the heat down to the minimum needed to maintain a slow boil – a simmer.

An interesting fact about cooking is that it takes a lot of energy to bring water to boil, but once boiling temperature is reached it requires considerably less energy to maintain it. People unaware of this typically keep the flame high and thus boil the water away.

The lid must remain on while the beans absorb heat, as we want to lose as little steam and water as possible. This also makes it possible to maintain the boil with low energy consumption.

So now the beans are cooking. Nothing to do for awhile but consider what else you want to put in the pot later!

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