I learned to love authentic black bean soup in a Cuban cafe on West 72nd street. The deep, dark flavor was indescribably delicious. They knew how to prepare old-fashioned beans, soft, easy to digest. Of course their beans were full of spicy peppers and other nightshades. Beans aren’t considered Paleo, however I beg to differ. There’s plenty of evidence that ancient people enjoyed beans. Recent discoveries about ancient man’s diet show beans as a MAJOR source of protein and vitamins. For example, Dr. Stephan Guyenet who examined Neanderthal tooth plaque discovered peas and fava beans in their teeth!
Recently scientists in Melbourne studied 785 elderly people in Japan, Sweden, Australia, and Greece, observing them for seven years. Researchers tracked their health markers and food choices in nine different categories: vegetables, legumes, fruits, nuts, cereals, dairy products, meat, fish, and monounsaturated fats. Read about the study here.
Surprisingly, the study showed that beans were the the #1 top predictor of long life! Number one! Legumes were the most important dietary predictor of survival among the elderly, regardless of ethnicity. In fact, for every 20-gram increase in daily legume intake, “they found a 7 to 8% reduction in mortality hazard ratio.” Wow! I truly believe beans have always been an important part of a healthy diet, even for our ancient ancestors.
Another common myth tells us that beans contain lectins that disturb digestion. Yes, however the lectins are only in raw beans. After soaking and cooking properly, lectins are no longer present. Hooray!
This recipe is free of nightshades, a class of plants that create digestive disturbance in about 40% of Americans, mostly Caucasians. Peppers, tomatoes, white potatoes, and eggplant are in this class, often creating intestinal fissures which can invite auto-immune disease. If you think this might be you, read my article Beware of Nightshades. I’m intolerant too, so most of my recipes are nightshade-free.
How to cook beans. A word of advice on beans. Here are the 5 keys to great beans: #1 – Soak the dry beans 12 hours or overnight. #2 – Cook well WITHOUT SALT! They’ll cook faster. Ideal cooking time varies from 20 – 90 minutes depending on the bean. When they’re really soft, they’re ready to add salt and other ingredients. #3 – Go easy on your portions, don’t eat too many at a time. #4 -Beans contain both protein and carbs. So for best digestion, chew them very well in the mouth, mixing with amylase enzymes. Yep, that means you get to enjoy them for a moment longer! #5. Intelligent meal planning helps. Beans combine best with cooked vegetables, not meats or other proteins.
For even softer more digestible beans, consider adding fennel seeds, cumin seeds, fresh ginger, bay leaf, or a 3” strip of dried kombu seaweed while cooking. I usually make a big pot of soup and freeze it in lunch-size portions. Then I can look forward to a bowl of my favorite soup on a rainy day. Serves 6.
- 2 cups dry black beans, soaked 12 hours or overnight, and rinsed
- Filtered water to cover
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons ground fennel seed (I use a mortar and pestle or superblender to grind)
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1/4 cup olive oil or grass-fed butter
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice or apple cider vinegar
- 3 green onions, diced
- 1 1/2 teaspoons unprocessed salt to taste
- Black pepper to taste
- 2 teaspoons ground mustard
- 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
- 6 slices bacon, GMO-free, sugar-free, cut in 1/2-inch pieces and sautéed (Optional, omit this for a vegan recipe)
- 1 medium carrot, diced (Optional)
- Garnish with chopped cilantro or green onion
- 2 teaspoons chili powder (Optional, omit if you’re nightshade intolerant)
- Before soaking the beans, place them in a colander and rinse with cold running water. Pick out any rocks or shriveled beans. Place them in a large saucepan with a lid and cover with enough cold filtered water to cover them one inch over the top of the beans. Soak overnight.
- Place the soaked beans in a large saucepan and cover with filtered water. Bring to a boil. Turn down to simmer. Do not add salt until the beans are so soft they melt in your mouth - about 1 to 1 ½ hours. I do this first thing in the morning while I'm meditating. If you add salt at this point, the beans will not soften and they will be hard to digest.
- When the beans are soft, add all the other ingredients the onion, garlic, bay leaves, cumin, fennel oregano, butter, lemon juice, green onions, salt, pepper, mustard, and bacon, if using. Season to taste. Hey! this is a flexible recipe - so be creative. Garnish with cilantro or green onion.