Review & Recipe: Vegan Beans from Around the World

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I’ll admit to being a total cookbook junkie. I can’t resist at least peeking at new vegan titles when I find them at the bookstore, online or in the library. Hence why I couldn’t say no when an opportunity came my way to try a neat little book called Vegan Beans from Around the World.

vegan beans book cover

Although there aren’t any pictures, this book has a nice layout. The recipes are clear and easy to read and there’s a helpful introduction that details the use of dried versus canned beans as well as how to cook with each. In the back are some handy conversion tables to make that sometimes pesky “cooking math” go more quickly.

This simple, straightforward book delivers a variety of beany international delights but keeps it basic with just a few categories: Soups and Salads, Sides and Snacks, Main Dishes and Drinks and Desserts. Within these categories are some standard vegan recipes like hummus, lentil soup, bean burritos and black bean brownies, but among them are some truly unique gems.

Take, for example, the Black Bean and Sweet Potato Queso-Less-Dillas. It’s a mouthful to say–if your mouth isn’t already full of amazing cheese-free quesadilla deliciousness. Not only is it cheese-free, it’s even vegan cheese-free. The creaminess comes entirely from mashed spiced sweet potatoes. There’s some crunch to it as well thanks to the addition of sauteed onions and bell peppers. A little jalapeno and a little lime along with, interestingly enough, a bay leaf turn the traditional black bean/sweet potato combination into a sweet, spicy, savory mix that’s really something special.

black bean sweet potato quesadilla open

For some reason, I was expecting the combination to be bland–perhaps because the recipe doesn’t include the types of chili spices that I’m used to putting in burritos. But wow! I added some nutritional yeast and spicy salsa to round it out and thoroughly enjoyed it, especially with the cirtusy zip from the lime. If you want to taste it for yourself, check out the recipe below! It makes a fabulous lunch along with a salad.

The other recipe I tried was the Curried Dal with Cauliflower. I’ve made many curried cauliflower dishes in the past, usually after a visit to Trader Joe’s where they have cauliflower heads as big as…well, my head. What makes this recipe different is its used of yellow split peas and spinach. That makes for a fun combination of colors with a creamy texture. The split peas take a little while to cook, but that just frees up time to do other things like make salad and roti. Or, you know, get really OCD cleaning the kitchen.

yellow split pea dal

Overall this dal wasn’t too different from other Indian dishes I’ve tried, but it has a heck of a spice blend. I served it over brown basmati rice with some homemade roti and mango chutney also procured, incidentally, at Trader Joe’s.

(Speaking of staple food stores that EVERY TOWN should have, did I ever mention that Albany is FINALLY getting a Whole Foods next month? I drove by it yesterday on my way to–don’t laugh–Trader Joe’s with a friend and had a happy freakout moment.)

I’m hoping to have more time to explore Vegan Beans from Around the World in the near future, because it certainly has a lot more to offer than those two recipes! There are some unique snacks and baked goods that use chickpea flour as well as dishes such as Frijoles Colombianos (Columbian Red Beans) and Feijoada (Brazillian Black Beans with Setian) that I’ve never come across before. And of course you can’t go wrong with New Year’s Black-Eyed Peas or Samosas.

After paging through this unique collection, it wasn’t a surprise to discover that the author, Kelsey Kinser, has worked in restaurants in France, Spain and Greece and has traveled around Europe, apparently sampling the best of the best that beans have to offer!  This fun little book is her first and can be found over at Ulysses Press for $15.95.  If you’re a legume-loving vegan like me, you can’t go wrong with a whole book of bean recipes with international flair.

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Black Bean and Sweet Potato Queso-Less-Dillas
reprinted with permission; slightly modified to be oil-free
The recipe is a personal interpretation of just a handful of the delightful flavors of Mexico. The creamy richness of the sweet potato perfectly takes the place of the cheese, or queso, as they say in Mexico, for a flavorful queso- less-dilla. The spice of the jalapeño and the distinctly tropical tart of the lime tie this dish together. Feel free to add other veggies such as sautéed zucchini, greens, or whatever you like.

black bean sweet potato quesadilla

Serves 3 to 4

1 bay leaf
1 jalapeño, seeded and halved
1 teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into cubes
1 medium onion, chopped
1⁄2 green bell pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup cooked black beans
juice from 1 lime
tortillas as needed, at least 2 per queso-less-dilla

Bring a medium pot full of water to a boil. Add the bay leaf, half of the jalapeño, salt, and sweet potato. Cover and cook on medium heat until the sweet potato is tender but not mushy, about 15 minutes. Drain the sweet potato and discard the jalapeño.

Mince the remaining half of the jalapeño and reserve 1⁄2 teaspoon (or more if you like it spicy).

While the sweet potato is halfway through cooking, heat a large pan on medium-high heat. Sauté the onion and bell pepper until tender and translucent, about 7 minutes, adding splashes of water to the pan if necessary to prevent sticking. Add the garlic and cook another half a minute.

Add the jalapeño, black beans, and sweet potato to the frying pan and cook, using a spatula to stir while partially mashing the sweet potato until the mixture holds together but is not completely smooth. Squeeze the lime juice over the potatoes. Set aside this mixture; it will be your filling. Wipe the frying pan clean.

In the frying pan, place one tortilla and cover it with the filling, spread out evenly. Top with another tortilla and cook on medium-high heat for about 6 minutes; flip and cook until the tortillas are slightly crisped and the filling is heated. Continue with the rest of the tortillas and filling, or save the filling to eat topped on rice.

About The Author

Sam has been a vegan since summer of 2009 and has spent the subsequent years experimenting with all manner of vegan food. She holds a Certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies and is a graduate of the Bauman College Nutrition Consultant Program. She is a member of Toastmasters International and currently serves as part of the Capital View Toastmasters club. When she's not blogging or cooking, Sam likes to read, play silly card games and knit socks.

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