Ellen Kanner is the award-winning author of Feeding the Hungry Ghost: Life, Faith and What to Eat for Dinner. She is also Huffington Post’s Meatless Monday blogger, a Miami Herald syndicated columnist, and a recipe developer for numerous publications. With her personal food consulting service Veg Therapy, she helps people make more conscious food choices, and as a Miami EatWith host, she gathers others at her table and serves up plant-based feasts. Ellen is a firm believer in using fresh produce and always noting the nutritional benefits of foods such as pulses, you know–beans! I’m lucky, and often laughing, when I get a chance to hang with my friend Ellen. Get to know her. Thank you, Ellen, for writing this month’s guest blog post and including an e book giveaway.
The United Nations has declared 2016 to be the International Year of Pulses. Call them pulses, call them dried beans, call them legumes, I love them by every name.
I do not sell beans for a living, I’m not fourth generation bean farmer, I didn’t grow up in a bean-eating family. So how did I get to be the priestess of pulses, our lady of legumes?
Beans and I have a lot in common— we’re small but powerful, we multitask, we overdeliver. For starters, pulses offer heaps of amino acids, fiber, phytonutrients and are my favorite source of plant-based protein. Black beans out-protein beef, and a new study confirms beans provide the same happy satisfaction of beef without the cow, cruelty, cholesterol or extra calories.
They nourish us, they also nourish the planet. Beans are one of the few crops that actually improve the soil, with little nodules on their roots that take in nitrogen. They’re plant-based fertilizer. As a business model, pulses offer a great bottom line — they’re low carbon, low water, high yield. Growing a pound of beans requires a tenth of the resources it takes to produce a pound of beef. They’re drought-tolerant and heat- tolerant.
Let’s not forget delicious. From classic Egyptian ful to New Orleans RBR (red beans and rice), every culture has a bean recipe that fills the belly and stretches the budget. A bean burrito and hummus-stuffed pita are separated by only a few clicks. Caribbean pigeon peas and rice has African origins. So does that Southern staple, hopping john, A wat, the beany mainstay of Ethiopian cuisine, Greek fava dip and Brit fave peas porridge are all legumes cooked down to their divine beanly essence. They’re the most versatile thing in your kitchen, the little black dress of cuisine, costing about $.10 per serving, as compared to $1.50 for a serving of beef. This is where I get especially passionate, not just because I’m cheap. There’s well over 7 billion of us on the planet now, By 2050, we’ll reach 9 billion. And we all need to eat. Beans make it possible to feed everyone well.
Okay, you’re thinking, but are they sexy? Yes, they are. Pulses are an age-old symbol of fertility. And desire. Back in 400 AD, the Latin priest Saint Jerome warned all of Rome about the dangers of black beans. He even forbid the nuns of his church to eat, cook or even touch them. He said, “They tickle the genitals.” Happily, the Italians didn’t listen. Beans are so much a part of Italian culture and cuisine, the Florentines call themselves mangia fagioli — bean-eaters.
We should all mangia fagioli. They’re the real deal. They connect us to our culinary traditions, they connect us to who we are and to each other. And who knows, they may even tickle the genitals.
This summer recipe marries black beans with seasonal produce for a big flavor, no fuss, no cook, no fat significant salad. It makes for a quick weeknight dinner, it’s pretty and sturdy enough for buffets and picnics, too.
More Ellen Kanner pulse recipes at Beans: A Handful of Magic .
- 1 jalapeno, minced (wear gloves when handling chilies — really. Yes, even you.)
- 1 red pepper, diced
- 2 ribs celery, chopped fine
- 2 15-ounce cans black beans, rinsed and drained (or 4 cups cooked black beans)
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice (about 1/2 lime)
- 2 mangoes, peeled and diced
- 1 bunch cilantro, chopped
- 3-4 cups fresh greens like spinach, arugula or frisee
- sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds) for garnish, optional but adding fabulous crunch, not to mention goodly amounts of manganese and magnesium
- In a large bowl, gently mix together jalapeno, diced red pepper and celery. Add the black beans and combine well.
- Add the cumin and the lime and toss to coat.
- Just before serving, add the chopped mangoes and chopped cilantro.
- Season to taste. Place atop greens and serve at once, garnishing with toasted pepitas, if you like (and you will).
Serves 4 to 6.
Ellen Kanner is the award-winning soulful vegan author of Feeding the Hungry Ghost: Life, Faith and What to Eat for Dinner (VegNews’ 2013 Book of the Year, PETA’s debut Book of the Month Club pick), Huffington Post’s Meatless Monday blogger, Miami Herald syndicated columnist the Edgy Veggie and vegan writer for numerous publications. She runs the personal food consulting service Veg Therapy. An ardent advocate for sustainable, accessible food, Ellen serves on multiple Miami boards. More at: SoulfulVegan.com
Ellen has a copy of her ebook Beans: A Handful of Magic for one lucky reader. Beans: A Handful of Magic celebrates beans with easy plant-based recipes from around the globe. From Caribbean pigeon peas and rice to Greek fava dip, they magically add inexpensive oomph to meals and provide deep, satisfying sustenance.
Follow the instructions below to enter for a chance to win Beans: A Handful of Magic by Ellen Kanner. Contest ends at midnight on August 16th. Good luck!