Beans: The Magical Fruit
I know. I know. There are moments the old playground song rattles through my mind when I think of beans, and sometimes I even giggle like a 10-year old boy when the song brings up the topic of... Well, flatulence. But here's the thing - when you think of beans such as their nutrients and their versatility, they really are the "magical fruit."
This magical fruit which comes in various colors, shapes, and sizes, and are high in protein, complex carbohydrates, folate, and iron. Beans also have significant amounts of fiber and soluble fiber. One cup of cooked beans provides between nine and 13 grams of fiber - and soluble fiber can help lower blood cholesterol.
Whether they come in a can or dried in a bag, I keep a lot of beans in my pantry. Sure dried beans cooked from scratch are the best and better for you but don't discount the bean in a can. A can of beans is handy, still nutritional, and can be used spur of the moment, unlike the dried bean that takes soaking and a few hours to cook.
Beans are a staple around the world. Due to their affordability, let's never dismiss the bean as a poor man's meal or "peasant" food. Are you going to curl your lip up in distaste over a luxurious meal of Tuscan white beans cooked with fresh garden picked tomatoes and herbs finished with Parmesan cheese broiled until golden and drizzled with extra virgin olive oil - and perhaps even paired with a glass of pinot grigio and a loaf of crusty bread to sop up the juice?
The name "Cassoulet" may sound fancy, but this traditional French dish is considered a hallmark of French country cooking. It's a stew of poultry, sausage, pork, and of course - - beans as the main ingredient. Paired with a glass of Cahors or any other malbec and this dish is considered the best of dining for many Francophiles.
My most recent pot of beans was frijoles negros - a Latin American dish made with black beans. It's a pot of beans you would see prepared in Guatemala, Cuba, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Mexico, and other nations in Latin America. Just a basic pot of black beans can be later used to make black bean burgers, soup, and I love black beans as a nice twist to top a plate of nachos instead of the usual refried beans - especially when used with blue tortilla chips. It's kind of dramatic!
Here is my recipe for basic black bean soup. It's a vegan/vegetarian option. However, you can always add a ham hock, smoked sausage, or an Italian-style sausage or a spicy sausage like chorizo.
This soup is comforting and can be as spicy as you choose by adding chili pepper flakes. It's a tasty meal on its own or served over rice or on the side with a few tortillas or a chunk of cornbread. Note, my secret ingredient is a must. You may even add more per taste, especially just before serving.
- 1/2 lbs dry Black Beans
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 cup onion, chopped
- 1/4 cup green bell pepper, chopped
- 1/4 cup red bell pepper, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 2 tbsp red wine vinegar (my secret ingredient)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
Pick through the dry beans and discard any pebbles or broken beans. Rinse beans and soak in four cups of water in a large pot. In separate pan heat oil over medium heat. Add onion, peppers, and garlic; and cook until tender for about five minutes. Stir mixture into beans and add the rest of the ingredients. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer until beans are tender. Plan on cooking for at least a couple of hours.
Just like most soups and stews, this soup is better the second day. It also freezes nicely. Wine pairing? A Rioja or tempranillo would be traditional and also tasty.