Beans are somewhat of a nutritional miracle worker.
Along with being an excellent source of protein, they're packed with fiber and other plant-based nutrients. Plus, they're extremely low in fat, can prolong the feeling of fullness after a meal and can help control blood sugar levels.
Many people are hesitant to cook with beans because they think of the dry ones, which can require soaking overnight and, depending on the variety, lengthy cooking on the stove. But canned beans are a convenient must-have for any healthy pantry.
The good news is that unlike many other canned products, beans keep their nutrients during the canning process.
Besides being nutritional dynamite, canned beans are available in numerous shapes, sizes and flavors, making them a favorite among gourmet cooks. They usually can be found alongside the canned vegetables at the grocer, but be sure to check the ethnic aisle as well for some of the less common varieties.
Always rinse and drain canned beans before using them to remove excess salt and indigestible sugars that are in the cloudy liquid.
Because they're so rich in protein, beans can replace some or all of the meat called for in many dishes. They also can be pureed (with seasonings) to make quick dips and spreads. Or simply add some to a salad for extra protein, flavor and texture.
This summery salad stars black-eyed peas, a bean named for a prominent black spot. Chock-full of fresh tomatoes and parsley and tossed in a lemony dressing, the dish is reminiscent of a Middle-Eastern tabbouleh salad, but much more satisfying and nutritionally balanced.
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Two 15 1/2-ounce cans black-eyed peas
1 small red onion, quartered and thinly sliced
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
3/4 cup coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley, plus a few sprigs for garnish
In a medium bowl, combine the lemon juice, garlic, sugar, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper. While whisking, drizzle in the olive oil. Whisk until completely emulsified. Add the black-eyed peas and red onion. Toss to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours.
In a large serving bowl, combine the tomatoes, parsley and marinated black-eyed pea mixture. Toss thoroughly to coat. Season with additional salt and pepper. Serve garnished with parsley sprigs.
Nutrition information per serving: 190 calories, 86 calories from fat, 10g fat (1 g saturated, 0 g trans fats), 0mg cholesterol, 23g carbohydrates, 8g protein, 10g fiber, 848mg sodium.