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Lucy Saunders
4230 N. Oakland #178
Shorewood WI
53211 USA
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Beans and Beer in a Burger!

Sure, you know that beans are good for you. In fact, the tiny fruits of the legume family are nutritional powerhouses, packing calcium, iron, protein, complex carbohydrates and soluble fiber. So why don't we eat more beans and peas?

Many people just find legumes to be laborious. Whole dry beans, though inexpensive, require cleaning, soaking and rinsing until free from the flotsam common to foodstuffs from the soil, and after all that, more simmering on the stove top to achieve tenderness.

But help for time-pressed cooks interested in good nutrition is here. The instant bean can be prepared in 10 minutes or less. Just add beer and stir.

Sound like a recipe for freeze-dried camp food? Fortunately, the techniques used to create today's instant bean lock in flavor more effectively than early experiments did.

Beans can be cooked and dehydrated on a drum roller under hot air; freeze-dried; or cooked with infrared heat; or cooked, mashed into a paste that is extruded into pellets and dried, and then flaked or milled. Each of these processes yields slight differences in the instant bean that suit its culinary use.

Instant beans may be baked into snack crackers (such as corn chips made with pinto beans), or added to a mix with rice or pasta and seasonings to make side dishes, or blended with dehydrated minced vegetables and spices for instant soups and dips.

Convenience for food processors is another reason the food industry has embraced the instant bean. Instead of cooking carloads of beans, or lifting heavy cans, the instant bean is lightweight and nutritious, and blends well with other ingredients.

A manager at Outpost Foods Co-op, says: "Convenience is the main reason consumers choose the instantized beans. With the instantized products, especially the bean soup-in-a-cup, it's portable, takes minutes to fix, the nutritional quality is almost identical and the taste is wonderful."

Consumer products featuring instant beans include the Bean Cuisine line from Reily Foods, Fantastic Foods, and Taste Adventure of Harbor City, Calif. Taste Adventure prepares its instant bean blends in small quantities, to yield instant soups of surprising depth of flavor and creamy texture. They also make plain instant bean flakes.

Ann Williams, founder of Taste Adventure, is a third-generation vegetarian. "I've always enjoyed cooking lots of vegetables, and beans were part of my staple diet," Williams says. "When I started working with a company that had just developed a patent for instantizing the bean, I decided to formulate some recipes. All our products are low-fat, and we always use ingredients that can be found in most home kitchens."

Taste Adventure bean soup mixes can be used to make dips or fillings for burritos, and they even can be used dry as crunchy salad sprinkles or toppings for baked potatoes.

Another popular product blends the instant bean with noodles and seasonings for quick skillet suppers and side dishes. Zatarain's makes a Cajun style red beans and rice that fixes up nicely with a dash of lager and lime.

Following are two simple recipes -- ready in 15 minutes or less -- that feature the instant bean.

Black Bean Beer Soup (based on recipe from Taste Adventure)

2 cups vegetable or beef broth
12 oz. amber lager or bock

3/4 cup fresh tomato "pico di gallo" salsa
1 1/2 cups instant black bean soup mix
2 green onions, minced (include some green leaves) for garnish
1/3 cup each minced red and yellow bell peppers for garnish
1/3 cup crumbled queso fresco (Hispanic cheese) for garnish

Heat broth, beer and salsa in pot until simmering. Stir in soup mix, and let simmer 5 minutes. Prepare garnishes, if using. In the time it takes to prepare garnishes, mixture will blend into thick, chunky black bean soup. Remove from heat. Divide among four soup bowls and top each with one-fourth of each of the garnishes. Makes four 1-cup servings.

These are more flavorful than most frozen brands of veggie burgers, thanks to the beer. If you have a food processor to mix the blend, the patties will be easier to form. If not, the patties will be somewhat loose and crumbly.

Beer Bean Burgers (recipe by Lucy Saunders, all rights reserved)

1 1/4 cups black bean flakes
1 cup pinto bean flakes
1 cup peeled and minced white onion
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 cup finely grated carrot
1/2 cup minced pimento or roasted red peppers (drained)
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
Juice of 1 lime
1/2 cup grated Asiago cheese
2 tablespoons ground chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
8 oz. amber lager, warmed
1 egg white
Cornmeal to dust burgers
Corn oil to fry patties

Mix all ingredients except egg white, corn meal and corn oil in food processor fitted with metal cutting blade, or in a large bowl. In another bowl, whip egg white until thick, white and foamy, but not stiff. Stir into mixture, blending well, and chill 30 minutes, or until beans have absorbed moisture. Form bean burgers with your hands, about 4 inches in diameter and 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick, and dust both sides with cornmeal. Fry with 2-3 tablespoons corn oil in non-stick skillet placed over medium-low heat until crusty and browned, about 5 minutes on each side. Keep warm in 250-degree oven until ready to serve. Makes 8 bean burgers.

www.beercook.com, Copyright © 2012-2002, by Lucy Saunders. All rights reserved. Note copyright of authors and recipe contributors in bylines and prefaces. Fee required for reprints in any commercial media.

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