See also: Beans History & Nutrition; Dried Beans
A HILL OF BEANS & RECIPES
FOOD FOR THOUGHT - July 7, 2004 - Mark R. Vogel
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Beans belong to a large family of plants known as legumes. Legumes have pods with edible seeds. Other legumes include peanuts, peas, and lentils among others. The black bean is one variety of hundreds of the common bean. Beans were one of the earliest staples in the human diet. Archaeological evidence reveals that the black bean was being consumed as far back as 5,000 B.C. in Mexico and Central America where it originated. Today the black bean is highly popular in numerous dishes throughout Latin America, the Caribbean, and the United States.
Most beans can be found in dried form. This necessitates either soaking them in water for a number of hours or boiling them prior to cooking to soften them. Being more of a purist, I would almost always steer you toward foods in their most natural form. But beans are one of the very few products, (plum tomatoes being the other), that remain delicious and similar to their unfabricated state after being canned. Thus, I almost always use canned beans in my recipes and forego the added step of soaking them. Furthermore, I recommend Goya beans, as in the following recipe for black bean soup.
BLACK BEAN SOUP
• Olive oil, as needed
• One and a quarter pounds of onion, chopped
• 4 poblano peppers, chopped
• 2 long hot peppers or four jalapenos, chopped
• Four tablespoons chopped garlic
• Quarter cup, (2 oz.), tomato paste
• 4 tablespoons cumin
• 4 tablespoons chile powder
• 2 tablespoons paprika
• 2 tablespoons coriander
• 1 gallon beef or veal stock
• 2 large cans (1 lb. 13 oz.) & 4 small cans (15.5 oz) Goya black beans.
• Salt and pepper to taste
Sauté the onions and peppers in the olive oil until they start to get soft. Add the garlic, tomato paste, cumin, chile powder, paprika, and coriander and sauté three minutes more. Add stock, bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer. Puree the two large cans and one small can of beans, including the liquid, in a blender in batches, and add to the soup. Drain the excess liquid from the three leftover small cans of beans and add them whole to the soup. Simmer for a half hour uncovered. Taste the soup and then add the desired amount of salt and pepper.
As usual, let’s discuss the ingredients. This recipe will produce a fairly hot (taste not temperature) soup. To cut down the heat, you can replace the long hot peppers or jalapenos with poblano or bell peppers. Poblano peppers are similar to bell peppers but are less sweet with only a smidgen of heat. I think they work better in spicy dishes. If your supermarket does not carry them you can use bell peppers. The long hot peppers and jalapenos can be found in all supermarkets.
Notice the recipe calls for CHILE not CHILI powder. Chile (with an “e”) powder is ground chile peppers and is hot. Chili (with an “i”) powder is a mixture of ground chile powder and other spices such as cumin, coriander, garlic, etc. Chili powder can always be found in the spice section of any supermarket. Chile powder is more elusive. Use Chili powder if you can’t find the real thing or want to cut the heat level a bit. Since it’s a mixture of spices, it is usually less hot than chile powder which is solely ground chile peppers. To make your own chile powder, buy a large number of hot peppers. Place them in your oven on aluminum foil or a sheet tray at 200 degrees when you get home from work and leave them in overnight. In the morning they should be dry enough to grind in a spice mill.
Note that the recipe calls for stock and not water. Stock will give the soup greater body and depth of flavor. However, you can certainly use water. This is a very flavorful soup so the difference will not be drastic. Use water if you want a lighter soup, are counting calories, or do not have the time to make a pot of stock.
BLACK BEAN SALAD RECIPE
• Two 15.5 oz cans of black beans
• 4 plum tomatoes, chopped
• 1 small onion, chopped
• 3 jalapenos, (for hot) or 1 poblano or bell pepper (for mild), chopped
• 1 small can (about 8 oz.) corn
• 3 tablespoons olive oil
• 1 tablespoon of either red vinegar or lime juice
• Chopped cilantro leaves and stems to taste
• 2 teaspoons chile powder
• 2 teaspoons cumin
• Salt to taste
Drain and rinse the beans. Chop the tomatoes, onions, pepper, and cilantro, and then simply combine all the ingredients. As with the soup, use hot peppers and chile powder for heat, poblano/bell pepper and chili powder for less heat.