Brooklyn Bean Offers Locally Sourced Heirloom Beans

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Courtesy Brooklyn Bean
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.



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