Beans are a wonderful food that seems overlooked in the American diet. Not only are they nutritionally dense but also provide ample fiber and diversity to meals. They’re full of vitamins and complex carbohydrates and every study I can find says they should be added to our diet. They’re inexpensive, easy to grow and make soil better by fixing nitrogen that plants need to grow. Wait for photos of my summer garden and you’ll see southern peas in every spare space.
Here are a few recipes I think you should try. As we’re entering spring and summer I tend to eat lighter and want things that aren’t as heavy. Beans fit the bill nicely. They’re a fun way to eat less heavy meat or at least up the fiber content in your diet.
Split Pea Soup
I love split pea soup in winter. It’s a great warming food but there’s no reason you can’t have it for lunch with a sandwich during the summer. If you desire ham or bacon feel free but a veggie version is simple as well. The first time I ever made split pea soup I decided I liked it, however many times I’d seen the exorcist.
Ham or bacon (optional)
1 onion diced
3-5 carrots chopped
2-3 yukon gold potatos diced
1 1lb bag green split peas
3 tbsp olive oil
black pepper to taste
sea salt to taste
8 cups water
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar (optional)
2 tsp mustard powder (optional)
If you use bacon or ham brown them in the pot to start. The browning that occurs produces a fond that is highly flavorful and contributes to the final dish. Then add olive oil (or leave out if you’ve enough fat from the bacon or ham) and all of the ingredients other than salt. If you presoak the split peas overnight they cook faster. Bring the pot to a boil then turn down to simmer on your stove top. You can check the peas after around 30 minutes to judge their level of doneness. I prefer when they’ve completely broken down and disintegrated into that wonderful green broth. Add salt to taste at this point.
If you let this sit in the fridge overnight it may thicken substantially. Just add some water if you wish to thin it after reheating. If you go the vegetarian route try the balsamic vinegar and mustard powder. They’re wonderful flavor additions to the soup.
Dahl is a traditional Indian dish with curry spices and lentils. I typically use yellow lentils or yellow split peas but any lentil will work. If you can’t find the spices in your local store find an indian market close to you. The curry leaves make a huge difference, they’re extremely fragrant.
1 1lb bag yellow lentils
2 tbsp turmeric powder
1 green chili slit length wise
1 tsp minced garlic
2 tsp grated ginger (squeeze the pulp and reserve the liquid in a small cup, toss the pulp in the compost)
cilantro for the dish and to garnish (leave out if you dislike it)
1 tsp whole cumin seeds
1 tsp whole mustard seeds
8 curry leaves
3 tbsp ghee or just plain butter
sea salt to taste.
8 cups water or enough to cover
You can soak the lentils overnight to speed the cooking. Saute the garlic, cumin and mustard seeds in the ghee. Once the mustard seeds spurdle and pop add the rest of the ingredients. Allow the pot to come to a boil and simmer for 30+ minutes covered. Check to see if the lentils have disintegrated and if so you can let it sit. Salt to taste.
Serve over basmati rice. You can read the package instructions for this. Basmati is extremely fragrant and perfect with this curry. This meal digests easily and goes well with papadums as a light meal.
Red beans and rice
Growing up in Louisiana red beans and rice are served on Monday nights. Traditionally this was because Monday was wash day and the beans could sit and simmer. It’s a hearty healthy meal that goes well with greens and cornbread.
1 1lb. Bag of red beans (soak them overnight) You can cook the beans in water until they are soft then drain and set aside. Reserve a small amount of the cooking water to add to the beans.
1 1b package of sausage (this is optional but if you use sausage try to find a pork sausage that’s pecan smoked. Andouille is best if you can find it.) Slice on a bias thinly and brown in a pot with a little olive oil. Once browned set aside.
Brown half a small can of tomato paste. Stir regularly, we’re allowing it to carmelize lightly not burn. Once this is browned add all remaining ingredient and simmer till beans are done, onions are cooked and everyone is drooling.
1 onion diced
1 bell pepper diced
3 cloves garlic minced
water to cover
salt and pepper to taste
Serve over rice and a bottle of Louisiana hot sauce on the table is appreciated.
If you’re going for red beans as the meal, everyone will appreciate these sides.
Greens (collards, mustard, turnips or beets)
I make most greens in a nearly similar way. Part of it is the south, part Italian. I sometimes hybridize. No one complains. People who’ve told me greens are bitter often eat mine and change their mind.
3-4 bunches of greens rinsed and chopped (excess water on the leaves just goes in the pot)
1 onion diced
3 cloves garlic minced
3 tbsp olive oil or bacon fat…both are great and have their benefits.
Toss all ingredients in a stock pot with a nice lid. Saute for a minute or two then add the juice of 2 lemons. If you care to add a pinch of chili flakes…do so. Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.
Once they’re cooked down and soft they’re ready to eat.
I have strong feelings about cast iron skillets and cornbread is the perfect use of a good skillet. Once seasoned it’s an heirloom, a pan you’ll use for the rest of your life.
Turn on the oven to 425F. I prefer to use bacon fat for my cornbread but you can also use clarified butter or ghee. If you’ve not made clarified butter do so, it’s easy to make, inexpensive and…it’s butter, just do so. Keep it in the fridge for when you make french toast.
Put 4 tbsp of bacon grease or clarified butter in the pan and place in the oven. Let preheat fully and assemble your drys and your wets.
2 cups cornmeal
1 tsp baking soda
1 and ½ tsp salt
2 cups buttermilk (milk will do but…come on it’s buttermilk!)
Whip the eggs into the buttermilk and let sit till ready to combine.
Mix these ingredients once your pan is almost ready and let sit for 3 minutes. The skillet is extremely hot so use an appropriate oven mit. Pour the mix into the pan and be cautious about spurtles or pops…no burns!
Let cornbread cook for 15 to 18 minutes. Check at 15, if it’s browning on top it’s probably done. You can stick a toothpick through it, if any batter comes out wet let cook longer. If it’s done then set on a cooling rack in the pan for 5 minutes. Turn onto the cooling rack. It should come out cleanly of a good skillet and will cool to have a nice crust.
I occasionally add a handful of chopped pickled jalapeno slices or cubed cheddar cheese. All are good, just depends on what you’re serving the cornbread with.
I hope that expands on different ways legumes can be used in meals. These won’t be the last meals containing them that I post but it’s a good start. Don’t forget Esau traded his birthright for some lentil soup.