The Ultimate Slow Food: Lupini Beans with Garlic and Olive Oil

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Even though the HH is of Scottish descent and I hail from the Poles and Russians (the joke possibilities are endless, aren’t they?), we live in a predominantly Italian neighborhood.   And while we enjoy a good relationship with most of our neighbors and have even become friendly with some of them, in some ways, living here has induced a bit of an inferiority complex.

I know it’s a cliché, but in our neighborhood, at least, the lawns are perfectly tended, with gardens that have been pruned and primped more than J Lo’s hair on Oscar night. On any given evening as the HH and I enjoy our stroll  with The Girls, we pass yards that could qualify as tourist attractions, complete with plush grass carpets, a profusion of exotic flowers in myriad colors, and hand-crafted topiary in any variety of shapes (my favorites are the bear and cat shrubs–I kid you not).  And while we like our house and do try to keep it in good repair, the HH’s idea of ”property maintenance” is picking up the newspaper from the porch each morning.

But in the realm of food–what a learning experience it’s been!  I was already a lover of Italian cuisine even before we moved here, and felt a bit heartbroken when I was told I could no longer eat wheat.  No more pasta primavera?  No more wholegrain bread dipped in chili-infused olive oil?  No more gnocchi–my all time favorite (and most elusive) type of pasta? Luckily, there are a couple of places in the city where I can still enjoy rice pasta or spelt pizza–and, of course, I can make my own.

Since we moved here, though, I’ve had a series of culinary coaches.  Each time I enter the local grocery/deli to pick up something for the HH, Melvin, my friend behind the counter, offers a tutorial on the varieties of asiago cheese or which olives are best.  Our (extremely generous) landlord, who lives only a few blocks away, provided all kinds of tips on how to plant and raise my tomato garden last year–then presented us with several jars of his own home-canned tomato sauce.  (Thanks again, Vince!).  And can it be that The Girls have developed a predilection for basil (pesto-coated potatoes at the top of the list)?

So, when I happened upon them in the bulk store a few weeks ago, it seemed only natural that I’d want to give lupini beans a try.  A new legume I’d never eaten before!  I grabbed a small bag full and headed to the cash.

“Have you ever eaten these?”  I asked the cashier.

“No,” she replied, “but our Italian customers make them all the time.  You have to soak them for ten days. But every day, you have to spill out the water and replace it. Do you still want them?”

Of course I still wanted them, I assured her.  Besides, I knew she’d made a mistake.  Who ever heard of a dried legume that needed ten days of soaking?  Anyone who’s ever cooked dried beans from scratch knows that you simply soak them overnight, drain, refill, boil, and eat.  Simple!

Er, sorry Ric, but that’s simply WRONG.  After a bit of Internet sleuthing, I discovered that the cashier had, indeed, been correct. Apparently, a high alkaloid content produces a bitter taste that can deter even the most steadfast legume-lover from sampling the beans.  Soaking, then rinsing and soaking again–and repeating the process every day for at least ten days–allows the bitterness to be washed away so that the beans are then palatable.

According to Purcell Mountain Farms’ page on lupinis, “All this effort is worth it.  The Lupins family of the grain legumes are one of the highest in protein content, second only to soy beans.” Hooray for serendipity–and an alternative to tofu!

Lupini beans are generally served at Easter or other holidays (and no wonder–when else would people have the time to prepare them?).  I suppose you could simply boil them in advance, then keep in the fridge while you moved on to other holiday dishes.  Once they’re ready to eat, you replace the soaking water with salted water (brine).  This way, the beans will keep for weeks in the refrigerator.  Here’s a basic tutorial, including info about the tough outer skins.

In the past, while in the midst of baking a birthday cake or other multi-ingredient confection, it’s often occurred to me, ”Who ever thought it would be a good idea to mix raw broken eggs, milk, sugar, flour–and then take that wet mixture, pour it into a metal pan, and bake it?”  I mean, why on earth would they assume that would work out? In this case, did someone cook up the beans just like any other, bite into one only to spit it across the room like the sparks flying off a welding torch before suddenly thinking, ”Hey!  Why don’t I take these putrid beans, put them in a jar, refresh the water once a day for ten to fourteen days, and then taste them again?!”  Seriously, how do these recipes come about?

Well, luckily for us, some fool masochist did think to repeatedly rinse the beans before eating, and we all get to benefit from the innovation.  While I can understand the reverence these tidbits receive in Italian homes–they are springy, toothsome and offer the same snacky enjoyment as biting into unshelled edamame (with the same “pop” as you crack the tough outer skins and enjoy the inner bean),  I’m not sure I’d make them again.  Checking on the beans for ten days felt like a commitment just shy of cohabitation, and I’m not sure I’m that much in love.

Laced with extra virgin olive oil, garlic and sage, however, these made a delectable contribution to our antipasto plate a while back, providing a great boost to the protein content of my meal.  I’ve still got half a jar left in the refrigerator, too.  Which, come to think of it, would make a great gift for my landlord.

I’m submitting this recipe to Katie of Chocolate Covered Katie, for her “New Foods Challenge,” as well as to Lori Lynn of Taste with the Eyes, as my submission for the popular My Legume Love Affair event, begun by Susan of The Well-Seasoned Cook.

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Comments

  1. That’s very interesting. I haven’t yet tried lupini beans, and had never before heard about the special treatment they require. Thanks to you, I’ll have learned something today! I may give them a try one day and see for myself if they’re worth that kind of commitment to me.

  2. I want to see your neighbour’s cat topiary – the area where I live has lots of immigrants but it just means vines in the front yard rather than immaculate gardens

    I haven’t tried lupini beans – I am still trying to work up to trying a bean recipe which needs 10 hours in the oven – 10 days is quite a committment!

  3. MMMmmmm I love beans! In fact, I love all of your recipes and it’s about time I come out of blog stalking mode and pay you your due compliments :)
    I also wanted to let you know (since I am capable of eating about 10 servings of gnocchi in one sitting myself) that I’ve successfully made gnocchi with barley flour or oat flour and I’m sure others will work in there as well. No special recipe or anything, I kind of just eyeball it based on other recipes I’ve used and cross my fingers when I throw them in to boil. It actually gives the gnocchi the most wonderfully soft texture! I may like it more than regular flour.
    I’ve been able to sub either of those flours in almost all baked goods I make too about one to one with no major problems too so you don’t have to give up carby goodness entirely!
    I hope you try the gnocchi and please blog about it if you do so I know how it goes!

  4. daisybell says:

    We used to have these at all the holidays, but I can assure you, we never soaked them for 10 days! Mom or Dad would bring home a jar or two and we’d uncap, dress and serve with the antipasto. We’ve an Italian Store in Arlington, and now I’m going to have to stop and see if they have a jar of them.

    meanwhile, the local health store here carries gluten free gnocchi which I went to get today and they were out. I guess that is a good sign, because it is almost $9 a (small) bag.

    • The ones in the jars have been soaked previously. If you buy them raw you need to soak them for over a week. Lovely little snack, the Portuguese have them as a beer snack.

  5. my my, what a long soak! i’ve never tried them, but now i’ll have to keep my eyes open ;)

  6. I’ve heard of these, but I had no idea they were so high-maintenance! They sound like they’d be fun to try, but not to make on a regular basis.
    Your neighbourhood sounds so lovely.

  7. I love snacking on beans. And your recipe sounds terrific. I really should branch out from my canned-bean ways!

  8. 10 days, oh my! I’ve never even seen these in the store. Talk about advance menu planning!

  9. Looks like a great recipe. Would you believe I have never heard of lupini beans.

  10. Wow I’ve never had lupini beans and had no idea they required such tending! They do look delicious though. I love the little dish you have them in.

  11. No wonder these aren’t at my local market! Maybe if you made 8 or 10 cups of them at the time they would be worth the trouble.

  12. wow! it sounds like you have quite the culinary arsenal in your neighborhood :D melvin sounds especially wonderful!!! i’ve never had lupini beans but they look yummy!

  13. Such a beautiful recipe–and so worth the wait!

  14. I love your description of Toronto – makes me feel like I am at home. Wow!
    The recipe looks and reads fantastically. Yum Yum! Happy Summer to you, the girls and the HH.

  15. I’m always looking for new beans to try, and these sound well worth the effort. Thanks for sharing!

  16. There aren’t many legumes that I haven’t tried, but lupini beans I have not. You have encouraged me to try them, despite the lengthy process.

  17. This looks simple and yet oh-so-delicious!!!!

  18. Johanna,
    I’ll take a photo if I remember next time we’re out!

    Gaby,
    Thanks so much for your comment, and for de-lurking! Nice to “meet” you. :) I will definitely give that type of gnocchi a try once I’m able to have barley flour again! :)

    daisybell,
    I’ve read that you can buy them already prepared, as you describe. . . that way, someone else does the soaking first. Much easier, I’m sure! :)

    Heather,
    Melvin is a total doll. . . just the kind of guy you wish worked in the local grocery! (oh, wait, he DOES!!). ;)

    vegancowgirl,
    Thanks so much! And glad you liked the description. :) Hope your own summer is going well, too!

    Lisa,
    I’d love to hear how they come out if you do give them a try!

  19. Ricki, I’ve just spent a leisurely, contented bit of time catching up on your latest blog posts that occurred while I was out of town – may I just say, you always, always reach new culinary heights of perfection! Ah, the muffins, the muffins, and then these gorgeous legumes! I’ve never prepared lupini beans before, and I’m so glad you gave me a heads-up before I stumbled across them and blissfully tossed them in a pot of boiling water like any other bean… :-) Thank you for the always wonderful, always witty info!!

  20. Interesting! Seems like a lot of effort but I must say the results do look appetizing. I congratulate you on your persistence.

  21. How interesting! I had never heard of this type of beans before. Thanks for sharing. :-)

  22. MMMMMMMM…. I love, love, love lupini beans. I used to buy them all the time from this great Italian market when I lived in Jersey but haven’t had them in a really long time! Now I’m going to be obsessed with finding them:).

    Thanks Ricki!

  23. Mmm. Garlic and Olive Oil are my favorite combination on earth.

    Thank you! Well, my first step is to find a publisher or a literary agent. Much easier said than done. I’m going to try to “Go Big” first, and if that doesn’t work, I’ll try smaller companies.

    Let me know if life dies down a bit :) I”d love for you to give it a look.

  24. “…a commitment just shy of cohabitation…” You crack me up!

  25. WOW!! I just stumbled upon your site and am a definite return customer. I am a bit of a naturalist myself and after a recent “detox” I found I have an aversion to dairy and possibly nuts (of course my two favorite sources of calcium and protein). Your site is a welcome help! And I can’t wait to check out your cook book.

  26. I’ve never even heard of (let alone had!) lupini beans before, but those sure look delicious!

  27. This sounds so good but the amount of work involved for a few beans – I will probably pass. Lentils, black beans, lima and kidney beans, all of these I love and prepare. Still, these lupini beans sound intriguing and thanks so much for experimenting and sharing!

  28. Nice! Remind me to send you the Italian food book I’m editing when it’s done…

  29. I love beans, but it is a hard sell in my family … I think I’ll try the lupini bean recipe for myself this week.

    Don’t know how I found your website, but it is not bookmarked – thank you and I’m looking forward to checking back in!

  30. Sorry – typo – I meant to say your website is NOW bookmarked – haha, big difference!

  31. I think I saw these beans in Lisbon. Now I wish I had grabbed a bag, they sound really interesting.

  32. You are too funny. What about the person who gave up on the eighth day of soaking?!?

  33. I just saw lupini beans jarred in the Italian section of my supermarket and wondered how to prepare them. This recipe answers my question. Lovely and simple, Ricki. Thanks for joining MLLA. Sorry to hear you’ve been unwell lately.

  34. These are called Altramuces in Spain and are readily available from the supermarket. There is a knack to eating the canned variety but I’ve never had fresh ones. This looks good.

  35. I read the comments and smiled.
    On the way to work this morning I stopped in to purchase a lunch snack; the clerk said we are out of Lima beans but we have lupini beans and they taste almost the same.
    The key word is almost.
    I like Lima Beans!
    I opened the can of Lupini Beans and did indeed almost spit one out.
    Smile.
    Even though canned they aren’t mild.
    As I searched for a recipe for how to use a can of lupini beans, I came across this website and enjoyed a few smiles and chuckles.
    Tks.

  36. Lupin beans are a pretty common snack in portugal – you would have them with your beer, instead of the ubiquitous bowl of peanuts that you might normally expect in bars everywhere else. “Tremoços” is their portugese name, usually served simply with chunky salt.

  37. Mel houchard says:

    I’m looking for a soup recipe with the lupini beans. Any ideas

    • Hi Mel,
      I’ve only made the lupini beans once–in this recipe, so I’m afraid I don’t have many soup ideas for you. But I imagine they could be used in any recipe that calls for dried fava beans, as they are similar. Anyone else out there have some recipes to post?

  38. I bought a 2 lb bag of dried lupini beans last week. What a surprise when I looked up a recipe to find the long soaking process they require. Luckily, the beans I purchased were the new ‘sweet’ variety which only take 5 days of preparation. They taste ok on their own, but I think the traditional way is to pickle them.

  39. MaryLisa says:

    yes I’m Italian and we’ve had these in our family a lot. My parents used the soaking method – although you can buy canned and rinse very well if you don’t have the patience. We generally don’t eat the thick skins though – They are actually fun to eat like sunflower seeds – you bite off the skin at one end and squeeze the bean into your mouth – awesome! We put olive oil, sea salt and oregano just before serving. We would have on special occasions after the big meal – (don’t know why it came out after all the food) :)

    • Hi MaryLisa! So nice to see your name pop up on the blog :D. I did figure out the pop-em-out-of-the-skins method, and it was lots of fun. Not sure I’d go to all the trouble again, though. :)

  40. I have Lupin flowers in my garden. The blooms are now gone and have green pods hanging on the stalk. Are these the same beans as you are talking about? I haven’t opened any of the pods, wasn’t sure if they were actually more blooms coming out, so left them alone.

    • Wow, I have no idea! That was actually the only time I ever cooked lupini beans, and I bought them already dried. Is there anyone you can ask who would be able to actually look at the beans? From what I gather, you don’t want to eat them unless they’re prepared correctly. Sorry I’m not more help!

  41. MMMMMM, love lupini beans! I’ve been craving these but I can’t find them locally. When I lived in the Azores I remember people would fill potato sacks with these beans then tie them to a rock in the ocean and let it soak for days.

  42. Just made minestrone soup and used lupini beans without knowing anything about them. Thanks goodness they are large enough to pick out of the soup!

    Fortunately I experimented with 4 different kinds of dried beans I bought at Whole Foods and only the lupini were inedible. Happy to have found this article to find out why they tasted so bitter.

    And if anyone has a desire to babysit beans for two weeks, you might be able to find them at Whole Foods stores.

  43. Fran Ruddick says:

    I think these are the same thing I used to love to eat in “Ecuador back in the 60s when I was in the Peace Corps there. They were a little smaller than the Italian lupini, and were called chochos. They were sold as a street snack. I don’t think they are really beans but seeds of the lupine flower. In Ecuador they were boiled with some flavorings but I don’t know what. I sure would like to know if there is anyone out there who knows what I’m talking about. But I’m confused. The Italian lupini I bought in the states has the same membrane that chochos have which we would have to squeeze to pop out the seed to eat. No one mentions this membrane which can be tough in the write up.

    • Fran, thanks so much for your comment! I actually did mention the membrane in my text–that you have to pop the beans out of their skins. And yes, I do recall that it was pretty tough! :)

  44. I used to eat Lupini beans when I was in Florence. They were served to me with olive oil and parmesan shavings. It was absolutely delicious! The only problem was I forgot thy were called Lupini and have been searching for the bean ever since(about 12 years! seriously!) Well, I just found them today at an Italian cheese shop called DiBruno Brothers in Philadelphia. They were in a jar already to eat (6.99 a jar). I came home, drizzled olive oil, put a few shavings of parmesan on and presto! It was just like I remember in Florence! Thanks for posting this!

  45. Your post was most helpful. I also bought a little bag of these dried beans at the Italian market. I had no idea they would take so much prep time. They are finally edible and i drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled sea salt and oregano. My friends devoured them! I will be eating lots of these since a little goes a long way. Have you come across any ideas for roasting them?

    • Hi Sarah,
      Sorry, no, I haven’t come across any posts about roasting them. However, I imagine you could easily roast them once they’re coated in oil (the way one does fava beans). I bet they’d be delicious!

  46. I live in the deep south…and, have had a jar for over 25 years. Only for the memories…of my Dad and Friday night boxing matches. That is the only time they were served…in olive oil, with garlic and coarsely ground pepper.
    Just returning from a trip to Chicago, I was finally able to buy some in a Italian grocery. But, they are not soft enough…nor will skins slide off as easily. Boil some more, perhaps?

  47. Great conversation. But PLEEEEASE folks, you have to add plenty of coarsely chopped garlic to the water that you are going to store the lupini beans in , in the fridge. It makes a world of difference, and you will all love them. Enjoy and all the best.

  48. vgrandja says:

    Does it make a difference in soaking time if the lupini beans were bought packaged in a bag?

    • I’m not an expert (that was the only time I made them!), but I bought mine, dried, in a bag. Is that what you mean? I know you can buy pre-cooked lupini beans in jars; those don’t require soaking at all.

  49. For those that don’t know, the bitter taste that takes so long to rid of is actually a poison:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lupin_poisoning

    The general rule is to boil them for 2 hrs. It gets rid of the poison much faster and softens the beans so you can have your lupinis done in 5-7 days. No reason it should take 14 days unless you’re simply not boiling them long enough.

    • Thanks, Jeff. :) The information I was given said to soak them and rinse them first for 10-14 days, THEN boil. Are you saying you should boil them first BEFORE you soak/rinse them for another 5-7 days? Want to be sure I give my readers the proper instructions (since I am by no means a lupini expert)! :)

  50. I’m wondering if anybody made these: because I didn’t see the reminder to peel the skins before eating. Even if you buy a bottle of Lupinis already to eat, you have to peel, then eat. I dress them, then each eater peels his own. They’re still firm, but delicious and nutritious. My children said — they taste like mozzarella or cheese curds, fresh, but firmer.

    • Thanks for this, KelliSue. Apparently, you don’t *have* to peel the skins–but frankly, I imagine they are not very appetizing with the skins still on! ;)

Trackbacks

  1. [...] An article I came across when searching for lupini beans called it “the ultimate slow food”. Hah – she got that right! Yes, these legumes are tasty, but yes, you do need to soak, rinse, repeat for as long as two weeks until they’ve gotten rid of their bitterness. If you guys read this blog regularly, you know that we’re fans of soaking legumes. Legumes, grains, nuts and seeds have high levels of antinutrients that may block the absorption of nutrients and vitamins in other foods that we consume. Taming these little antinutrient beasts into submission involves submerging them in filtered water — usually overnight — either with a little bit of unrefined salt (in the case of nuts and seeds) or a tablespoon or two of acidic liquid like apple cider vinegar or lemon juice (in the case of legumes and grains). For lupini beans specifically, the bitter taste likely comes from its high alkaloid content. So in the case of lupini beans, soaking to “debitter” them isn’t really an option; it’s a necessity — especially if you want to avoid lupini toxicity (no, I’m not joking – there really is such a thing as lupin poisoning!) [...]

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