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Monday, December 27, 2010

Chickpea Salad and Dried Beans

We had the family over for Christmas Eve dinner and I prepared chickpea salad, sauteed kale, Brussels sprouts, and made a batch of sugar cookies. I had some picky eaters in the crowd, so I didn't make a whole lot of food knowing that my family was bringing meat they cooked in their oven and salad. My grandfather isn't too adventurous when it comes to food, especially when it comes to "weird vegan" food. When he had seconds of the chickpea salad and raved about how good it was, I knew I was on to something! This was inspired by a recipe I tried by vegan and so forth found here.

Chickpea Salad
2 cups cooked chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
1 large carrot, diced
3 stalks of celery, trimmed and diced
3 scallions/green onions, sliced

Salad Dressing
1/3 cup macadamia nuts
4 T water
1 tsp dried dill
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt
squirt of Agave (1 tsp or to taste)

You can use canned, cooked chickpeas, but try to make sure the can is BPA free (if it isn't labeled as such, assume it isn't. Food cans have a resin lining, which leeches into the food). I took the time to peel the chickpeas because I originally thought about making hummus, but it's certainly not necessary. Mash them lightly with a fork. You don't want a paste - leave some texture. Chop the green onions, carrot, and celery. I included the celery leaves because I think they add a pleasant flavor.

Put all of the dressing ingredients into a high speed blender or soak the macadamia nuts before attempting this in a food processor to achieve better texture. Taste the dressing and adjust spices and water as needed. You want the dressing to be thick enough to cling to your ingredients, but not so thick it won't come out of your blender. Combine the dressing and salad ingredients and sprinkle some fresh cracked pepper over the top.

Working with Dried Beans

I purchased dried beans because I was tired of spending so much money on the canned beans that are BPA free. It's also a better environmental choice with far less packaging waist and more can be shipped at a time, so less carbon footprint per bean. I just knew that all of my vegan cookbooks had to have sections on working with dried beans. Guess what? The authors assumed I had been doing this all my life apparently and knew how long to soak beans before cooking them.

Why Soak Beans?

We dread when certain family members eat beans because it definitely means gas. Or does it? When I soak dried beans, it helps remove the oligosaccharides that cause gas. Oligosaccharides are very complex carbohydrates that are enzyme inhibitors, preventing the bean from sprouting too early. If the beans are not soaked, those oligosaccharides travel through your stomach and small intestines, feeding the bad bacteria in your colon. The bad bacteria causes fermentation and gas, which is why beans are known as the magical fruit. Jack in the Beanstalk, eat your heart out.

Another important reason to soak beans is to reduce their cook time. The less time something needs to cook, the less nutrition we boil out of them. I do not use the water beans have cooked in because that water also contains oligosaccharides in addition to some of the nutrients cooked out of the beans. I'd rather lose some nutrients than feed bad bacteria.

How Long Do I Soak Beans?

Before I go into how long I soak beans, I want to point out that they need to be rinsed during the soak process. For example, if I start soaking beans in the evening, I rinse them before bed, then again in the morning before work, then very thoroughly before I cook them for dinner. Today I am taking the day off of work, so i will be rinsing them around lunch time as well. Ideally, rinse the beans 3-4 times per day.

For a handy soak chart, click here. I tend to soak my beans for at least 24 hours. Lentils will start to sprout by this time, which certainly only enhances the nutritional content. I don't bother to sprout other bean varieties except adzuki. Adzuki and lentil are the two easiest to digest and sprout (Coincidence? I think not.). Cooking times vary and can also be seen on this chart. When I cooked garbanzo beans it took about 45 minutes. Lentils take around 20 minutes. Adzuki somewhere in between.

Is It Worth All That Work?

Soaking really isn't very hard to do, it just takes a little planning ahead. The beans sit on the counter and shed those enzyme inhibitors for you, so they're doing almost all the work for you! It's not as easy as opening a can and dumping it into a curry, but you also don't have to worry about what else came out of that can.


  1. good idea to rinse the beans more, i need to do that. i notice i digest some beans better than others.

    the chickpea salad sounds good!

  2. Your dinner sounds perfect to me. I love all the things that were on your menu! I've been trying to use more dried beans instead of canned ones, but the canned beans sure come in handy for last minute, unplanned dinners. :)

  3. Aimee - Definitely. I've noticed I don't do well with black beans and even though I love them, garbanzo isn't as easy on me as lentils and adzuki.

    Andrea - Thanks! I thought it was tasty. I used to hate Brussels Sprouts, but now I think they're great a little browned in olive oil and garlic. I'll probably always have a couple cans of BPA free canned beans on hand for that reason. I can't plan every meal ahead of time.