Although there are differences in color and flavor, peas and beans of a similar type can be used interchangeably or combined for contrast. Canned beans are inexpensive and easy to use-open a can, rinse the beans and add them to cold salad, soup, chili and more.
Packages of dried legumes are even less expensive, and some cooks prefer their firmer texture to that of canned beans. Preparation is easy. Most need to be soaked before cooking. Lentils and split peas are the exception because of their small size and lack of skin they are added dry to recipes.
Before soaking or cooking, rinse the beans or peas in a colander and pick out any pebbles. To soak, let the legumes stand covered in water at room temperature overnight or for about 12 hours. Or use the short-cut method: Combine beans or peas and water heat to boiling and let boil 2 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat, cover and let stand 1 hour.
To cook, heat the beans and the soaking liquid to boiling over high heat. Reduce heat cover and simmer over low heat until tender. To keep the water from foaming, add 1 tablespoon oil during cooking. Salt, wine, tomatoes or other acidic foods tend to toughen the skins of beans and peas and keep them from becoming tender add acidic foods toward the end of cooking.
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