Recession-Proof Recipes: Black Bean Soup

Last week when I started up this series on good eating for bad financial times, I mentioned roasting, which magically makes just about anything tastier on the cheap. This week, I want to throw in a good word for beans.

Packed with protein and fiber (nutritionists love ‘em!), readily available, totally cheap (even cheaper if you soak and cook the dried ones), vegetarian-friendly and delicious for breakfast, lunch or dinner, beans are classic in haut cuisine and poverty fare alike.

I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that legumes/pulses have sustained generations of people across this planet for thousands of years. Why not try to work a few extra into your diet?

Here’s ten classic ways to make beans a part of your week:

  1. Chili
  2. Lentil Soup or Salad
  3. Hummus
  4. Beans on Toast
  5. Bean Dip/Spread
  6. Channa Masala (Chickpea Curry)
  7. Minestrone
  8. Bean Burritos
  9. Vegetarian Cassoulet
  10. Beans & Rice

And here’s one more just for good measure: a classic Black Bean Soup. It’s what I’m eating this week. It’s really easy to make this one vegetarian, dairy-free or meatatarian, as you prefer.

Classic Black Bean Soup

2 cups dried black beans, washed
1 bay leaf
4 strips thick-cut bacon, diced OR 1 Tbsp olive oil*
1 fresh jalapeño, sliced into rounds
2 large onions, diced
2 green bell peppers, seeded and diced
4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
Salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste

Sour cream or plain yogurt (optional), for serving
Chopped cilantro or scallions (optional), for serving

  1. Soak the beans overnight.
  2. The next day cover the beans with additional water to bring the level by 1 inch above the beans. Add the bay leaf, cover and bring to a boil.
  3. Turn down the heat to a low simmer, and cook until the beans test tender, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
  4. *If using bacon, cook that now, remove it from the pan (to drain) when done, and use the bacon fat to cook the veggies instead of using olive oil. If making a vegetarian soup, add the olive oil to a deep skillet and heat over a medium flame.
  5. Add the onions and green peppers and sauté until softened, about 12 minutes. 6. Stir in the garlic and cook a few minutes more.
  6. Add the tomatoes and simmer 10 minutes.
  7. When the beans are tender, add in the vegetable mixture (and diced bacon, if using). Let simmer another 20 minutes.
  8. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with a dollop of yogurt or sour cream, or refrigerate and reheat the following day to enjoy it after the flavors have melded a bit.

Happy eating!

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