Monday afternoon I made some bean stew. It was going to be chili but as I began cooking the things in the pot sort of took on a life of their own. Maybe it woman's prerogative or just a wandering mind but I often start out making one thing only to watch it transform into a completely different meal as it comes together. Fortunately my family doesn't care and I enjoy the process as much as the product. More evenings than not, we sit down at the table and I cautiously inform Mr. Second Helpings that "this was a bit of an experiment."
The boldest example of my kitchen experimenting has to be last November's Leftover Thanksgiving Dinner Pizza. I made it for company, without a pretest of the recipe, and I had no idea what was going to happen when all the different flavors came together. To my relief the pizza was shockingly tasty and I may even make it again this year.
Though some of my experiments never make a second appearance (a bright purple stroganoff comes to mind), I have discovered some really fun and delicious new recipes along the way. Three Bean Stew goes in the delicious column.
I called this a stew and not a soup because its slowly simmered ingredients yield a thick and slightly creamy texture. I chose three types of dry beans from my pantry (black, great northern, and garbanzo) and let them soak overnight. After years of preferring the convenience of canned beans I have completely converted to starting with dry. I prefer the taste and tender texture of beans that have soaked to the convenience of opening a can. Dry beans are also much cheaper and there is never a question of what other ingredients may be included.
The secret ingredient behind the stew's luscious texture is an eggplant. I have always been curious about eggplant but it wasn't until recently that I brought one home to see what I could do with it. After the success of turning it into a lasagna I wondered how it would do in a soup. By cubing it and letting the eggplant simmer for a long time on low heat it softened and mixed into the broth creating a fantastically satisfying stewy consistency. The eggplant also has such a subtle flavor that it took on all seasonings I threw in and let them sing.
With so few calories and not much fat this stew leaves plenty of room for fancying up with garnishes but is incredibly filling all on its own. Oh - and it happens to be vegan, gluten free, soy free, and dairy free (double check the ingredient labels if needed).
The best part about this stew, it's even better the next day - and the next! Not bad for an experiment.
Three Bean Stew
Rich and creamy stew with a subtle spice and a hint of smoke. Thickening with eggplant enhances the bold flavors.
- 2 cups of dry black, white, and garbanzo beans soaked overnight (or 6 cups canned) - rinsed and drained
- 10 cups of water
- 1 yellow onion thin sliced
- 4 garlic cloves
- 9 teaspoon veggie bouillon, low sodium
- 2 teaspoon cumin
- ½ teaspoon smokey salt, or more to taste
- 30 oz of diced tomatoes with green chilies
- 1 - 2 TB finely diced canned jalapeño, use more or less to suit your taste preference
- 1 medium eggplant in 1 inch cubes
- 3 TB Worcestershire sauce*
Suggested garnishes: fresh lime or lemon juice, diced avocado, reduced or non-fat sour cream, crumbled tortilla chips, cilantro leaves, or additional jalapeño
- Soak 2 cups of dry beans overnight to yield approximately 6 cups of beans (or drain and rinse 6 cups of canned beans)
- In a large soup pot simmer beans with 10 cups of water on a medium high heat.
- As beans start to simmer add vegetable bouillon, onion, garlic, cumin, and salt. Simmering with the seasoning increases the overall flavor of the beans.
- After about 40 minutes of simmering the beans should be tender. Canned beans only need to simmer for about 10-15 minutes.
- Once beans are tender, add tomatoes and eggplant cubes - let simmer on low heat until eggplant has softened and begins to mix into the broth.
- Add Worcestershire sauce and leave to simmer on low heat until ready to serve, adding additional salt if desired.
- Serve the soup with a squirt of lime or lemon juice and desired garnishes.
Makes approximately 16 cups of stew.
Approximate nutrition for 1 cup of ungarnished soup: calories 66; fat .6 g; sodium 271 mg; carb 13 g; fiber 3 g; protein 3.5 g; PP 2 - Nutritional details will vary due to specific ingredients used especially the type of beans.