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.
Lupini Beans with Olive Oil, Garlic and Sage
A great snack once you’ve got them on hand. . . just don’t plan on eating these at the first sign of hunger.
About 1 cup (240 ml) dry lupini beans, rinsed and picked over
4 cups (1 liter) water, plus more for boiling
1 clove garlic, minced
splash of extra virgin olive oil
ground or freshly chopped sage, to taste
Place the beans in a pot in the water and soak overnight. After 24 hours or so, drain the beans, refill the pot, and bring to a boil. Boil gently until the beans are relatively tender (these will never get really soft), 1-2 hours.
Drain and rinse the beans. Place in a clean jar or container and cover with water. Place in the refrigerator and change the water once a day for 10-14 days (it took mine a full 14 days for the taste to lose all its bitterness).
Once the beans no longer taste bitter, add salt (to taste) to the water in the jar. They can be stored this way in the refrigerator.
When ready to eat the beans, remove some from the jar and splash with olive oil. Toss in the garlic and sage, and dig in. Makes about 2 cups (480 ml) beans.
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You Might Also Like (Other Bean/Legume Recipes):
- Fava Bean Balls with Cranberry-Tomato Chutney (gluten free; ACD all stages)
- Red Lentil Pâté (gluten free; ACD all stages)
- Bean-Based, Grain-Free Pizza Crust (gluten free; ACD Stage 2 and beyond)
- Black Bean Fudge (gluten free; ACD all stages)
- Adzuki Bean Spread (ACD
- Pelau (West Indian Rice and Beans) (gluten free; ACD Stage 3 and beyond)
- Egyptian Fava Beans (gluten free; ACD all stages)
© 2009 Ricki Heller