Thursday, February 12, 2009

Cuban Dinner & BEANS!

I want to share with you what has been one of my favorite dinners lately. While I don't put myself in any boxes by labeling myself vegan, vegetarian, raw foodist, etc., I absolutely prefer those types of foods. To my great pleasure, all desire for meat, including big, juicy hamburgers, has vanished. A common concern about becoming vegetarian is getting enough protein. Many people don't know where to turn for protein other than to meat. I used to feel this way since I would suffer from low blood sugar, resulting in emotional distress when I had not received sufficient amounts of protein. But today, I find myself very satisfied on a vegetarian/vegan diet. If you would like to eliminate much of your meat consumption but don't know with what to replace it, I would like you to consider the bean.

Today, I want to tell you about the bean and how it can be properly prepared so you can consume it happily with comfort. But first, as I promised, my latest favorite dinner: The Cuban Plate! This will get your mind open and mouth watering for those beans!

There are four different components to prepare, but it is really quite simple once you get to it.

Cuban Black Beans:

  1. Prepare about a cup of dry black beans through proper rehydration and heating technique as described later in this article. This will take some planning ahead of time.
  2. Once you have your beans ready to go, sauté about a half an onion and 3 cloves of garlic (both minced) in coconut oil
  3. Add the prepared beans to the onions and garlic
  4. Add about 2 teaspoons of cumin, 1 teaspoon of oregano, 1/2 teaspoon coriander, and 3-4 dashes of apple cider vinegar
  5. Heat through and let the flavors mingle a bit
  6. Add sea salt to taste

Spanish Rice:

  1. Measure white rice and water according to package directions (typically a ratio of 1 part rice to 1 1/2-2 parts water)
  2. After you bring the water to a boil, add a whole, un-peeled clove of garlic and a chunk of onion
  3. Add 2 Tbsp. of tomato paste
  4. Add 2-3 threads of saffron
  5. Cover and simmer according to package directions


This recipe comes from and can be prepared ahead of time or while the beans and rice are cooking.

  • 2 tomatoes (choose two varieties).
  • 1/2 onion (your choice of color).
  • 1 pepper (your choice of type and temperature).
  • 1 clove garlic.
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro (leaves and stems).
  • 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice.
  • 1/2 Tbsp olive oil.
  • 1/2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar.
  • 1/2 tsp cumin.
  • 1/2 tsp coriander.
  • 2 ripe HAAS avocados
  • 1/2 Tbsp lime juice
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt

  1. Mince garlic, cilantro, cumin and coriander.
  2. Add lemon, oil and vinegar to spice blend.
  3. Dice tomato, onion, garlic and add to spice blend.
  4. Add the avocados and blend ingredients together with potato masher
  5. Top with lime juice and salt.

Coconut Fried Plantains:

Save preparation of this component until last. It should only take 10 minutes maximum.

Buy a plantain from the grocery store that looks very very ripe. I am talking about one that looks beyond your comfort level for normal banana consumption. It should have quite a lot of black on the skin. Even plantains that are completely black are still good. If you get one that is very yellow or green, it will not have any flavor, will be very tough, and will be very disappointing.

Once you have your nearly black plantain, heat a good amount of coconut oil (2 Tbsp, perhaps) in a skillet to medium temperature. While your pan is heating, cut a skin-deep slice all the way down the length of the plantain. From there, you can lop off the top and start peeling off the skin. I like to cut the plantain into wheels about 1/4"-1/2" thick.

Lay each slice in the heated coconut oil and turn them over on their other side when they get to be a toasty, golden brown. When both sides are toasty, serve 'em up!

Combine all four of your attractive dishes on a plate, garnish with cilantro and lime wedge, and enjoy immensely!

Now that your mouth is watering for some delicious cuban black beans, let me talk to you further about the virtues of beans and how they should best be prepared for optimal digestion and assimilation of the nutrients.

What is so great about beans?
  • They are extremely inexpensive! $2-3 per lb. dry weight = $0.50/ lb cooked!
  • They have high protein content. Black beans contain 15 grams of protein per cup.
  • They possess in abundance minerals such as magnesium, potassium, iron, and phosphorus
  • They contain B vitamins such as folate and thiamin
  • They are high in soluble and insoluble fiber!

Now that we know why beans are so great, what is the digestive challenge all about?

Legumes as well as grains and seeds possess certain anti-nutrients that allow the seed to survive through the winter and preserve itself until the proper environment for sprouting presents itself. These anti-nutrients are phytates and enzyme inhibitors. Phytates bind to minerals such as iron, calcium, and magnesium and prevent the absorption of the minerals in the body. Enzyme inhibitors block the enzyme's activity, which is to assist in the breakdown and digestion of the protein, sugars, and phytic acid. Beans possess complex sugars (oligosaccarides) that cause digestive discomfort frequently experienced when consumed, hence their reputation as the musical fruit.

The solution around these complications is the use of water, heat, and time! With a few hours of planning you can sprout the bean, which will activate the enzymes to assist in the breakdown of the oligosaccarides and eliminate the phytic acid.

Just follow these steps:

  1. Cover the beans in four times their weight in warm water (between 90 and 130 degrees Fahrenheit). The water should also be slightly alkaline, if possible. Rehydration will take between 1 to 4 hours. The enzymes need plenty of time to do their work breaking down the complex sugars and phytic acid. You may let the beans soak overnight for convenience.
  2. Drain the beans then cover them again with 4 times their weight in water that is heated to 147 degrees Fahrenheit. It is at this temperature the enzymes work the most efficiently. However, for simplicity, generally warm water will still do the trick. Just remember that the enzymes are destroyed at 150 degrees. The soaking also assists in eliminating the sugars as they diffuse out of the bean. Changing the water multiple times will further the diffusion of the sugars out of the bean. A useful tip is to add a strip of the sea vegetable kombu (member of the kelp family) that will help alkalize the water and add alpha-galactosidase, the enzyme which assists in the digestion of the complex sugars.
  3. After soaking, drain the beans well, add them to a pot with more water, and bring them to a simmer. Adding kombu again will eliminate any oligosaccarides still lurking. Cook the beans until tender.



Rachel said...

These recipes sound absolutely delectable. I am looking forward to trying them. The info about beans was very helpful too. Isn't the same principle true of grains as well?

Lemon Letter said...

Yes! The same principle applies to grains as well. I highly encourage use of sprouted grains wherever possible! Fermenting is another method to make grains digestible.