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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Editor’s Choice: Urban Pantry

Confession: Until this winter, I had never cooked beans. I’ve heard all about soaking, tepid water, washing and sorting, but these things had never been fully explained to me. As I flipped through the January issue of Real Simple and found a Kale and White Bean Soup recipe, I knew exactly what to do with the container of New England Blend Beans from Purely American’s Urban Pantry Essentials I had sitting in my cupboard.

Confused as to where I should begin, I went to Urban Essential’s website and found answers to all my bean questions. Do my beans need soaking? How long should I soak them? What’s next? How do I actually cook the beans? And I found answers to some questions I would never have thought of like: How do I reduce gas? The answer is eat more beans.

Although a lengthy process, cooking raw beans is not time consuming at all. Overnight I soaked my beans, and after work the following day I cooked them just as Urban Pantry suggested, for about an hour. The earthy, full flavors filled the air and created an enjoyable aroma that was distinctly bean. It was amazing, and worth the extra effort of cooking raw beans.

While my guests and I were left a little disappointed in the recipe, the beans clearly stole the show. The texture combined smooth and grainy in a way I’d never experienced in a bean. They weren’t soggy and smoush-able like canned beans; Urban Pantry’s beans had a solid softness.

Created in my hometown, Athens, Ohio, the company puts so many of Athens’ community spirit and environmentalism into the final product. I’m always impressed by Athens-based companies, and Urban Pantry did not disappoint. Urban Pantry beans were certified organic in 2008, and the company plans to become LEED-certified in the future. What’s more, the mixes are reflective of traditional recipes and wholesome flavor combinations; an authenticity true to the spirit of its great city and foods as American as beans.

For more information about Urban Pantry’s sauces, beans mixes and peanuts, visit