A couple of weeks ago I decided that I really needed to make the effort to incorporate beans into my diet. Not only are they good for you but as a vegetarian, I think they should be included in at least a meal or two every week. Unfortunately up until this point, I have been a very bad bean fearing vegetarian. Because you see, I don't really love beans. The first bean dish that I liked was seven layer dip, but then the beans are covered by other delicious things like guacamole, sour cream, cheese, tomatoes and green onions. Then I discovered that I liked refried beans. But I haven't really explored the world of beans too much aside from that.
I've made a few dishes with chickpeas, though I don't really like chickpeas (aside from in hummus, delicious! - I still remember the time when I was on an airplane and my vegetarian meal was a bun with a few chickpeas in it...) I thought that if I made the beans from scratch (buy dried beans instead of canned), that might make the whole thing more exciting for me so I'd be looking forward to eating beans. I haven't done that yet, but I am becoming more accepting of beans. I think I need to find one or two kinds that I like and then find dishes that use them.
My issue with beans reminds me of Jeffrey Steingarten's book The Man Who Ate Everything. Great book by the way, highly recommend it. Anyway, he talks about how there were foods that he didn't like (I can't remember them now but I think one of them was Greek salad and possibly organ meats?). So what he did was he decided to expose himself to those foods enough, which resulted in him shedding his picky eater ways. Now in my head when I think of something I don't like but I know I should eat (ie. beans), I think of him and it makes it easier to know that one day I will like something I previously didn't.
Once I decided I needed to eat more beans, I started looking through my cookbooks' indexes to find something tasty. One of the first things I saw caught my eye: sweet potato and black bean salsa. Sweet potatoes are one of my favourite veggies (or technically tubers?) and one of my favourite things in general to eat, so how could I go wrong? And then I read the description above the recipe, which said "great for Halloween!" (since black beans = black, sweet potato = orange) and I was totally sold. (Halloween and the month leading up to it, the time of year, all the decorations, the spooky stories, and all of that wonderful stuff are all my favourite things.)
I had read through the entire recipe before going out to buy ingredients, but when I started making it, I completely forgot that I was going to half it (since it makes I think it was 7 cups of salsa!) That is an absolute ton of salsa for one person to eat. Luckily other people liked it so I constantly told them to eat it. I'm actually amazed that we got through the whole thing. Mostly I used the salsa to make quesadillas (just with the salsa and some cheese). So delicious. Other people wished it was spicier, and I would've been okay with that but I didn't have a problem with it the way it was. I was scared that the sweet potato would be too mushy once it was cooked and chopped but it held up just fine. The addition of pumpkin seeds was also festive, and nutritious! I've only made salsa a couple of times before and I haven't yet made a more traditional salsa. I think I'm scared of messing it up since I love salsa so much. I would definitely make this salsa again though, and surprisingly I wished that there were more beans in the salsa!
Sweet Potato Black Bean Salsa
(adapted from Entertaining for A Veggie Planet)
Makes 7 cups
2 pounds sweet potatoes (about 2), peeled & quartered
2 1/4 cups finely chopped tomatoes
1 13-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
1/2 cup toasted pumpkin seeds
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/3 cup fresh lime juice*
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
salt & pepper to taste
1. Place the sweet potatoes in a medium saucepan and add cold water to cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until just tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Drain well and allow to cool.
2. While waiting for the sweet potatoes to cool, put together the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl. Once the sweet potatoes are cool, finely chop them and add them to everything else. Mix well.
*For some reason the recipe says this is 6 limes but for me it was 2.