When you tell people you’re a vegetarian, you will invariably be met by one — or several — of the same few responses. Some people will tell you that they admire you but never could do it themselves. Others will wax nostalgic about their own vegetarian phases. And many, many people will ask you, in their most concerned voice, “But where do you get your protein?” To those people, once our eyes have finished rolling and are once again comfortably at rest, we inevitably respond, “Beans.”
But for bean-loving New Yorkers, it’s been nearly impossible to find a locally sourced option, so we’re forced to go with the canned version at the supermarket. Now, though, we have Brooklyn Bean, which sells fresh, local, dried beans and serves up heat-and-go bean chili and soup. Vegetarian (and bean-loving) locavores rejoice.
For founders William De Filippis and Erica Pratico, beans were the key to incorporating more sustainable, plant-based foods into their diet. “We gravitated towards an ingredient we felt we should be eating more of and that was affordable, versatile, and safe to work with,” they say. It didn’t hurt that they also saw an opening in the increasingly crowded artisanal food market: “Also, no one was working exclusively with beans, so we saw an opportunity to capture that market and boost bean awareness by showcasing the many varieties and uses.”
De Filippis and Pratico have been selling bean-based fare since early 2011 when they opened a stand at Smorgasburg to sell rare heirloom beans by the pound. But they didn’t stop there. De Filippis is a longtime chef and instructor at the International Culinary Center, so “it was only natural to start experimenting with bean-based dishes,” he says.
De Filippis met Pratico at the ICC, and they were soon offering foods like chili, soups, and bean burgers at weekend markets all over town. Spurred on by their initial success, they eventually developed their first packaged product: a frozen black bean burger, an excellent option for vegetarians who rely on veggie burgers for quick, healthy, meatless meals — this locally produced version doesn’t rely on any soy-heavy, fake meat products.
While the veggie burgers are undeniably tasty, they may be eclipsed by one of Brooklyn Bean’s other offerings: the beans & greens soup. Sold frozen like their vegetarian chili, this soup adds kidney beans and seasonal greens like kale, escarole, and spinach, to a savory vegetarian broth. It’s the kind of soup that makes you realize you don’t miss chicken noodle at all.
Whether you’re a die-hard or amateur bean lover, it’s worth perusing Brooklyn Bean’s seemingly endless selection of local heirloom varieties. Can’t decide what to buy? Brooklyn Bean provided us with an easy bean recipe that can be made using basically any of the beans they sell — so try something new.
Hit the next page for the Sunday beans recipe.
1 lb. heirloom dried beans
Aromatics of your choice (ex. garlic, onion, celery, carrot, leek, etc.)
Sachet of whole spices (ex. clove, all spice, cinnamon, star anise, black peppercorn, etc.)
Step one: Soak the beans.
(This is where most people panic and think the process is going to take days. Untrue. If you use a high-quality dried bean like ours, the soak time is minimal, only about 4-6 hours. It’s still a necessary step as it lessens the cook time and also preserves the nutrients in the beans.)
It’s as easy as this: On Sunday morning, place the beans in a large pot and cover with cold water. Place in the refrigerator.
Step two: Enjoy your Sunday.
Step three: Cook the beans.
– Drain beans and give them a rinse in a colander.
– Place the beans back in the pot and cover with fresh cold water. Give them about 2 inches of headspace.
– Flavor the water with aromatics and spices of your choice. The beans will take on these flavors as they cook.
– Bring the water to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.
– Depending on the bean, it takes anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour to cook. Start testing the beans about 15 minutes into cooking for doneness.
– Any foam that forms at the top should be skimmed off. These are the beans naturally releasing their impurities.
– Add a few pinches of salt when beans are 80 percent done (when they begin to soften).
– The beans are done when they are soft.
– Drain the water and discard the aromatics/spices.
– Drizzle oil of your choice over the beans to prevent them from drying out.
– Transfer beans to air-tight containers and store in the refrigerator.
Step four: Add beans to your meals throughout the week. BE CREATIVE!
Here are a few suggestions:
– Saute peppers, onion, mushroom and garlic. Add a can of fire-roasted tomatoes. Add beans. Stew for about 20 minutes. Serve next to rice or cous cous.
– Puree and make bean dips.
– Bean burritos, quesadillas, tacos.
– Beans and eggs.
– Marinate with oil, vinegar and additional ground spices. Add to cold salads.
– Add to chili, soups, baked beans or braised dishes.
– Or just enjoy them on their own.
For more information about where to find Brooklyn Bean products, check out their website.