What can’t canned beans do? 

By David McCann
May 11, 2020
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If you’re at all like me, I’m guessing that, in preparation for an unknown amount of time “at home,” you bought an inordinate amount of beans. Black, red, kidney, garbanzo, various types of white… I bought them all. I’m not complaining, though. I’m thrilled to have a wealth of beans sitting in rows in my pantry, waiting. 

It’s not like I haven’t been using them. There have been many soups:

There have been stews:

And there have been pastas:

But I discovered that many of the dishes I was making with beans seemed to lack a little body. And I didn’t want to jump right into adding ultra fatty thickeners (“The Quarantine 15” seems to be a real thing). After puzzling over this for a while, I remembered an old trick from vegetarian soup recipes that I thought might solve my problem for me. Many soups containing beans suggest pureeing some of the beans called for in a recipe to create a thicker, richer texture. And while I knew that, and have used it often, it had never occurred to me to employ that trick in something other than a soup. But I started trying it with other dishes and was quite pleasantly surprised to discover that it really worked.

For soups, of course. But pasta sauces—even the ones that don’t call for beans to begin with—were a revelation. Just check out this Creamy White Bean Fettuccine Alfredo and see for yourself. My stews have become even more comforting (and boy, do I need that). Chicken, beef, and vegetable stews are all fair game for this clever trick.

I’m considering adding some puree to a stir-fry, just to see if I can do without the cornstarch slurry. And I’ve even tried adding small amounts to pan sauces. (I’m still working on this one. I’ll get back to you… I have a good feeling about it.) So, play around with this idea. I’d suggest darker beans for darker recipes, red beans for reddish sauces, etc. 

I’m not a calorie counter, believe me, but being unable to live our normal “on-the-go” lifestyle, and being cooped up within tricky proximity to our kitchens, having a thickener at our disposal that doesn’t involve loads of saturated fat may just be a concept whose time has come.