Three of my boys love black beans so now that my oldest son is off to college, beans have been making a bigger appearance on our table – in chilies, soups, dips, and just regular old black beans. Although canned beans are convenient, they usually have quite a bit of salt, plus there are often chemicals in the lining of the cans. So, whenever I can, I use dried beans. They’re a lot less expensive, and honestly, don’t take that long to cook. Dried beans just need to be soaked first – there’s even a quick-soaking method on the back of the dried bean bags if you’re in a hurry.
Several months ago, I found a recipe for Cuban Black Beans in a New York Times article entitled Holding On to Heritage Before It Slips Away. I love making authentic recipes from various cultures. Although there are recipes on the back of dried bean bags and cans, the recipes often call for a seasoning packet that contains MSG. So, I was thrilled to find this authentic black bean recipe and try it. Interestingly enough, this recipe is not that different from the one on the back of the dried black bean bag, with the exception of the seasoning packet and the addition of sherry vinegar.
These are some of the best black beans I’ve ever made – the sherry vinegar is definitely worth seeking out as it adds great flavor. I’ve made this recipe several times already, and converted it to a Crockpot Cuban Black Bean Soup Recipe, simplifying the original recipe by a few steps. Instead of two different saute steps, I’ve combined them into one. And of course, sticking this in the crockpot makes for a no-fuss meal since it cooks all day long while you work or are running around. All you need is a nice green salad and some rice (tip: make this in a rice cooker and keep it on the warm setting until dinnertime) for a simple Meatless Meal (vegan too).
This week, a group of bloggers is featuring Dried Beans as a Power Food. This weekly food blogging group features a different Power Food each week based on the book Power Foods: 150 delicious recipes with 38 Healthiest Ingredients from the editors of Martha Stewart’s Whole Living Magazine. Power Foods are foods that are outstanding in the amounts of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, essential fatty acids, fiber and more, that help fight disease and promote good health.
So, what makes dried beans a Power Food?
Beans are loaded with vitamins, minerals and fiber and are virtually fat-free. They’re high in folate, B vitamins and iron, and heart-healthy. In addition, beans contain phytoestrogens that may help reduce the risk of estrogen-related cancers as well as pancreatic, color and prostate cancer. Because of their high fiber content, beans help to lower or maintain blood sugar levels, making them diabetic-friendly.
So, you might be wondering…why dried beans? Nutritionally, dried and canned beans are comparable, but canned beans are often packaged in cans that contain BPA, which has been linked in some studies to a higher risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes and obesity. Some canned beans are packaged in BPA-free cans, but are relative more expensive. Dried beans are really easy to prepare and very inexpensive. You can either soak them overnight and cook them the next day, or quick-soak them in hot water and cook them immediately. Just a little planning is required. However, they can be made ahead of time and refrigerated until you need them.
When using dried beans, there’s also the question of whether or not to discard the soaking water. Depending on what you’re looking for, you may or may not want to use the soaking water.
Discarding the soaking liquid will:
- Get rid of flatulence-related substances (that means you’ll likely experience less gas)
- Loss of some nutrients (although not significant) – 15% of total phenols are lost as well as a slight loss of some additional phytonutrients and minerals.
You decide. I generally throw out the soaking liquid and start with fresh broth or water when cooking dried beans.
Cuban Black Beans in a Crockpot
- 1 pound dried black beans rinsed thoroughly, soaked overnight
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large white onion finely chopped
- 1 bell pepper finely chopped
- 5 garlic cloves finely chopped
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon oregano
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 8 cups water
- 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- chopped red bell pepper
- chopped onion
- chopped scallions
- Heat oil in a large pan. Add onion, bell pepper, and garlic cloves to pan and saute until onions are soft, about 4-5 minutes. Add bay leaf, cumin, oregano, and black pepper and cook for 2 more minutes.
- Place in crockpot along with soaked beans and 8 cups of water. Cook on low for 6-7 hours. Add sherry vinegar, wine and salt, and continue to cook on low for another 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Remove bay leaf fore serving. Serve as a soup or over steamed rice.
Adapted from New York Times. Based on reader's reviews, you might want to double or even triple the amount of cumin and oregano in the recipe if you like a more seasoned soup.
Check out what these other bloggers have cooked up for this week’s Power Foods post: (If you’re interested in joining our group, contact Mireya from My Healthy Eating Habits.)