By JIM ROMANOFF
Beans are nutritional miracle workers.
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 can usually 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.