Saturday, March 01, 2014

Spicy Black Bean Soup With Crispy Plantains
Vegan And Gluten Free
Why Black Beans Are So Good For You!

Black beans are low in fat and high in protein and fiber.

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Black Beans
Do you love black beans? If so, you're in luck as they are one of the healthiest foods in the world. In one small cup you get over half of your daily recommended amount of dietary fiber and an amount of protein equivalent to 2 ounces of meat (but without the fat and cholesterol.) They help stabilize blood sugar and support your digestive tract as well as a healthy heart.

Black is Beautiful!
Although I always encourage eating colorful fruits and vegetables to maximize the consumption of phytochemicals, the black coating of this bean is rich in anthocyanin flavonoids. 

One cup of cooked black beans is only 227 calories and provides:
15 grams of dietary fiber
15 grams of protein
41 grams of carbohydrates
Less than 1 gram of total fat, 0.2 grams of saturated fat, and zero cholesterol.
Only 1.7 mg of sodium

It also provides the following daily requirements:
64% folate - very important during pregnancy!
38% manganese
30% magnesium
28% thiamin
24% phosphorus
20% iron 

It's also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, providing 181 mg per 1-cup serving and 217 mg of omega-6 fatty acids giving it a healthy omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of nearly 1:1.

Advantage of Soaking Beans
It's important to soak beans before cooking and to discard the soak water. This helps remove some of the phytates and tannins that lower nutrient availability. It also gets rid of much of the substances in the beans that cause flatulence (which makes eating this dish a much more pleasant experience for everyone!) 

Spice Things Up
If you want to spice things up, buy some Rotel tomatoes! They are similar to diced tomatoes but contain green chilies and are quite spicy. I love their flavor in soups and chilies and use them in this recipe. If you can't find them in the grocery store, you can order an 8-pack on Amazon

If you enjoy the flavor of Rotel tomatoes, you might also enjoy Spicy Butternut Squash and Red Lentil Dahl with Cauliflower and Whole Grain Pasta. 

Although plantains look like bananas, they are quite different. Instead of peeling them and eating them as a raw fruit, they are cooked and eaten as a vegetable. They are a staple in Asia, Africa, and Central America, and served like potatoes.

Todays dish requires ripe plantains that are
dark yellow with spots, not the green ones.

Although you have never seen me fry anything, today I am pan frying these plantains in a very small amount of oil in a stick-free pan. Since there is no oil in the black bean soup, I felt that we could splurge a bit to get a nice, crisp plantain. 

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Spicy Black Bean Soup with Fried Plantains
Vegan and Gluten Free
[makes 6 servings, 8 or more if served over rice]
Requires a 5-quart soup pot or Dutch oven and 
1 large, non-stick fry pan

Allow 8 hours (or overnight) to soak the beans and about 3 hours to cook the soup.

For the soup
1 pound dry black beans (2 1/4 cups)
7 cups vegetable broth
2 cups diced onions
1 cup diced celery
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 can Rotel tomatoes
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 cup diced, fresh cilantro plus some for garnish
2 tablespoons lime juice or more
Diced avocado (optional)

For the fried plantain
1 large, ripe plantain (darker with spots, not green)
1 tablespoon olive oil

Make the soup. Pick through the beans to remove any rocks and rinse with cold water in a colander. Place the beans in a large soup pot or 5-quart Dutch oven and cover with enough cold water so that it is at least one or two inches over the beans. Soak overnight.

The next day, drain and rinse the beans. Place back in the pot and cover with the vegetable broth, onions, celery, garlic, and pepper. Bring to a boil on high heat. Skim off the foam, reduce heat, and cover. Cook until the beans are soft, about 2 hours, stirring occasionally and adding additional broth if needed.

Remove 2 cups of the soup and place in a blender. Return to the pot.

Remove some of the soup from the pot.
Blend until smooth and return to the pot.

Stir in the Rotel tomatoes, cumin, salt, and cilantro and cook, uncovered, until you reach the desired thickness, about 30 minutes or more.

Meanwhile, fry the plantain.

Score the plantain from top to bottom. (Plantains do not peel like bananas.)

Pull the skin away from the plantain carefully and remove.

Slice into 3 pieces horizontally and then standing each piece on edge, slice vertically into thin pieces.

Heat the oil in a large, non-stick fry pan. Place the sliced plantains in a single layer and cook each side, turning several times, until they soften on the inside but are crispy and golden brown on the outside. 

Place on a paper towel to remove the excess oil. 

Back to the soup:
When the soup reaches the desired thickness, stir in the fresh lime juice and serve garnished with fresh cilantro, diced avocado (optional), and a few pieces of fried plantain. If you'd like, you can serve it over rice.

Per serving of soup: 319 calories, 1.3 g total fat, 0.3 g saturated fat, 213 mg omega-3 and 342 mg omega-6 fatty acids, 0 mg cholesterol, 17 g protein, 56 g carbohydrates, 13 g dietary fiber, and 390 mg sodium.

Per serving of plantain (assuming 1/2 of the oil is absorbed): 46 calories, 1 g total fat, 0 g saturated fat, 16 mg omega-3 and 123 mg omega-6 fatty acids, 0 mg cholesterol, 0 g protein, 10 g carbohydrates, 1g dietary fiber, and 1 mg sodium.

If you've enjoyed this recipe, you can download my eBook, Health Begins in the Kitchen, available on Amazon and iTunes.

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