beansLet’s start by preaching to the choir a little bit:

Dried beans/pulses are 20 to 25% protein by weight, which is double the protein content of wheat and three times that of rice.
The digestibility of the protein in dried beans and pulses is quite high.
Dried beans are a relatively inexpensive protein.
Dried beans have been shown to reduce coronary heart disease.
Dried beans have a very long shelf life.
But none of that would make any difference to any of you if they weren’t so tasty, right? Think for a moment about all the terrific foods we’ve grown accustomed to that are made from these guys: soups like minestrone or split pea, spreads like hummous, salads, chili con carne, refried beans, baked beans, and red beans and rice. Beans are also pretty interchangeable. For instance, you can make hummous out of almost any bean.

It’s winter, though - and that’s the time of year when the heartiness of bean dishes is really most welcome of all. PFI staff member Chris Greenlee has contributed a great, warming recipe this month for Cuban Black Bean soup.

Before I turn this article over to Chris, though, let me share some wisdom from the great food writer and educator Diana Kennedy:

“Don’t throw out the soaking water with all the minerals and flavor. Instead, throw out the book that tells you to do so.”

From Chris Greenlee:

When I was a kid and we used to visit Grandma in Florida. We’d take
her out to the wonderful old Columbia Restaurant in Ibor City, the
Cuban neighborhood in Tampa. Once, when my Mom raved about this soup
the very dapper old waiter slipped her a copy of this recipe.

Cuban Black Bean Soup
from the Columbia Restaurant in Tampa, Florida

1lb. black beans, dried
2 quarts water
2 med. onions finely chopped
1 bay leaf
2 green peppers, cut in strips
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tsp oregano
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp cumin
1 Tbs salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
white rice, cooked
chopped onions for garnish
lemon wedges

Soak beans overnight or boil for ten minutes and let sit until cool.
Pour beans and water into a 4 quart pot, bring to boil. Cover and
cook over medium heat.
Meanwhile, saute onions and peppers in the olive oil until golden. Add
oregano, bay leaf, cumin and garlic. Add this to the beans, along with
salt and pepper and simmer until the beans are tender (about an hour).
Serve on a bed of white rice, chopped raw onions and lemon wedges.

Over the years, we've increased the garlic, cumin and use lots of
Spanish extra virgin olive oil.