MOM'S CUBAN LIMA BEAN SOUP
As a few of you might know I am half Cuban on my Mom's side so I grew up with some delicious cultural classics. While beans were always a staple in my house it was always interesting to see the many different ways that you could prepare them. From soaking dried beans overnight to prepare for the week to doctoring up some from a can for a quick weeknight meal they are so versatile. This recipe in particular known as "Potaje de Frijoles Blanco" comes together in just a few hours and makes enough to last you throughout the whole week (and more)! The lima beans are a great source of fiber and protein and the broth alone of this soup has incredible depth of flavor.
There are a few ingredients that I would like to touch upon before you make this recipe.
The first ingredient I want to mention is Sazon. This is a popular Latin spice blend used to enhance the flavor and color of traditional recipes. There is a bit of controversy around Sazon for a few of it's ingredients. It includes monosodium glutamate (MSG), some versions include yellow 5 or red 40 for color, and some are high in sodium as well. While the research on MSG is still growing, the current research states that there may be some adverse health effects with constant consumption. See this article, "Extensive use of monosodium glutamate: A threat to public health?" for a more encompassing review of why cultures use it and what effects it may have on the body. In terms of the coloring agents those definitely do not need to be used in any food item whatsoever. They have been linked once again to adverse health effects, carcinogenic properties, and overall toxicology. Check out the article, "Toxicology of Food Dyes" for more information about this.
With all of that said, what should I use??? When my mom began learning a bit more about ingredients and health she realized she needed to find an alternative to her favorite spice packets that she grew up with. There are some ways to make your own Sazon by combining different spices but sometimes it is nice to have the packets on hand. One year she was visiting her brother in Florida and came across a green Sazon packet in the local bodega (they are usually red or orange packages). The ingredients included no MSG and no colors/ dyes! She stocked up and gets some more every time she goes. I recently found that they now have this kind on amazon as well so here is the link if you are looking to make this recipe!
If you can't find this type of Sazon here is a spice mix to make that should do the trick. Combine the following spices in a small bowl and store in an airtight container for up to a month.
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground annatto or "achiote" (or if you can't find sub paprika)
1 tablespoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
The second ingredient is really more of a few ingredients but is called a "sofrito" this is something I have seen my mom do for most of her Cuban recipes and is a tradition in latin cooking. This is where you saute onions, peppers, and garlic separately then add to your recipe. My mom actually used to make a large batch of this and then freeze it. She would take out a chunk and add it to soups, stews, and beans.
The last ingredient that I want to mention is the kombu. Seaweed... in Cuban food?? Yes! This is a great trick to have when making and eating beans so often as it not only improves the mineral content of the water but also makes the beans more easily digested, helping to decrease the common gas and bloating.
Ok now on to the recipe!
MOM'S CUBAN LIMA BEAN SOUP or "POTAJE DE FRIJOLES BLANCO" RECIPE
Time: 2 hours
Yield: 8-10 servings
1 lb bag of large lima beans, rinsed
3 whole, peeled garlic cloves
1 sheet of Kombu Seaweed
1 batch of sofrito:
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 yellow bell pepper, diced
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 minced garlic cloves
*2 tbsp olive oil, optional
16 oz tomato sauce
2 medium/large white potatoes, cubed
2 medium/ large sweet potatoes, cubed
1/4 cup cilantro
*2 packages of sazon or 1 recipe of homemade spice mix from above
*salt and pepper to taste
*Make sure you do not add the salt or sazon until the beans are fully cooked through as it will prevent them from getting soft.
Add the lima beans and sheet of kombu to a large pot (your biggest pot) and cover with water (fill about 4 inches above the beans as they will expand) let them soak for 1 hour.
Add the 3 whole, peeled garlic cloves and with the lid off over medium heat bring to a boil. Turn down to medium/ low, partially cover, and let simmer for 1 hour.
In another pan make the sofrito. Saute the onions and peppers in a pan until the onions become slightly translucent. Add the garlic and saute for another few minutes. Next add the tomato sauce, sauteing till fragrant and till it cooks down, about 3-5 minutes.
After it has been an hour remove the kombu leaf and add the sofrito & tomato sauce mixture to the pot of beans, along with the potatoes, and sazon* (see note under ingredients about salt). Let simmer for another 15-20 minutes or until potatoes can easily be pierced with a fork/ are cooked all the way through.
Add the cilantro and season with salt and pepper to taste.