The spot on your back you can never quite reach to itch. The messy corner of your house you can never quite get organized. That one hole in your culinary knowledge that, while you can effortlessly make a multi-course meal or a bake-sale’s worth of desserts, sends you running back to your recipe books again and again.
For me, it’s beans. Or more specifically, beans, legumes, lentils, pulses – y’know, those things that have to be soaked and cooked for hours and you can’t add salt or acid at the wrong time or look at them funny or they’ll come out hard or mushy or both at once. I not only don’t get them, I’m intimidated by them, and like dogs they can smell my fear and snarl at me whenever I come near, not to mention I get vertigo just looking at bean recipes with all that rinsing/picking over/soaking/simmering.
As a gluten-free vegetarian and somewhat nutritionally obsessed cook, beans/legumes/lentils/pulses should be my best friends. But as the previous sentence shows, we’re not even on a first-name basis. (Technically “pulses” pretty much covers all edible dry beans, chick peas, lentils, black-eyed peas, etc. and even includes random stuff like the Bambara groundnut and the common vetch, but when I use the word “pulses” no one ever knows what I’m talking about, so I have to get all mouth-stumbly and say beans/lentils/legumes instead.)
I want to be eating pulses pretty much every day. They are super high in protein and fiber and many great nutrients like B vitamins and folate, with none of the downsides of soy or dairy which are my other main sources of protein. But my whole cooking life I’ve been scared of them – of the time it takes to cook them, of the lack of spontaneity involved in soaking something overnight, and of ending up with something boring and brown after all that hard work. And then when I blog-surf for yummy-sounding recipes I end up on all the amazing Indian food blogs with their delicious dals using every pulse under the sun, and after bookmarking madly for an hour I realize I don’t have any fenugreek or curry leaves or tamarind and I am back to feeling overwhelmed. So my bean/lentil consumption relies solely on a few favorite recipes and an occasional canned bean supplement to a Mexican meal.
I can already hear those of you who are blessedly free from beanphobia telling me, “It’s really not that much work! I do it all the time!” and I know logically this is true, but I just have a bean blockage. Mentally, that is. Or I did. Until now. Because as of this month I am setting out to conquer my fears.
I’ve seen plenty of other food bloggers write about feeling intimidated or befuddled by beans or lentils (lentils seem to be an especially common mystery-item). So for all of us out there, I’m starting project Steady Pulse. I have a few bean and lentil recipes I know I can rely on. They’re easy to make, can be made with things I commonly have at home or have easy access to, and I’ve successfully made them many times. And that’s the real key for me – I love to read The Well Seasoned Cook’s monthly round-up of legume recipes, My Legume Love Affair, but I never know (unless the blogger tells me specifically) whether the dish in question was made once for the event or is a longtime favorite. (And I know I myself may be guilty of writing “through rose-colored glasses” about one-time dishes that I make for blog events… even if they don’t actually turn out that well.)
So my plan is to try some of the other bean and lentil recipes out there, and if something turns out wonderfully several times in a row and fits the other criteria (easy to make, common ingredients) I’ll write about it or link to it here. And if you have blogged about one of your sure-fire bean or lentil recipes, you can feel free to grab the logo above and add it to your post, or just send me the link and I’ll add it to the list here. And of course everyone’s idea of “easy to make” is almost as varied as their idea of “common ingredients,” but at least we’ll end up with a collection of yummy recipes that we know someone real out there relies upon. And that will make us a happier, healthier (and um… perhaps slightly gassier) food blogging community!