Organic value meal: Caribbean black bean and sweet potato soup

Slow Food USA is challenging everyone to create a $5 (per person) value meal Saturday, September 17 to show that slow food doesn't have to cost more than fast food. I'm cooking up my meal a day early to inspire you, and I've stepped up the challenge to prove that organic, slow food doesn't have to cost more than fast food! Since sweet potatoes are in season locally, I prepared a Caribbean black bean and sweet potato soup using organic and local ingredients.

The final tally: Just $1.68 per person! (Factoring the full price of all ingredients and $1.50 for use of spices and oil you should already have in your kitchen.)

This hearty vegetarian soup is healthy and high in protein. The mild spice of ginger and jalapeno combined with the subtle sweetness of the brown sugar and sweet potato makes this soup a delicious and flavorful alternative to that greasy, nasty fast food "value meal."

It is a slow food for sure...beans take some time to prepare. You could speed up the process by using canned beans, but why? Cooking beans takes time, but it's not labor intensive. You can easily cook this soup while watching a movie or doing household chores.

Caribbean black bean and sweet potato soup

Prep time: 30 minutes

Cook time: 2 hours 15 minutes

Makes about 6 2-cup, main dish servings.

INGREDIENTS:

1 pound dry organic black beans

2 tablespoons organic coconut oil (or olive oil)

1 organic onion, chopped (I used sweet yellow)

4 jalapenos, seeded and chopped

2 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp ground allspice

1/2 tsp thyme

2 tsp course sea salt

8 cups of vegetable broth or water

4 cups local or organic sweet potatoes peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch cubes

1 tbsp brown sugar

1 bunch organic green onions, thinly cut

1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

INSTRUCTIONS:

1. Rinse beans and place in a large bowl. Cover beans with   4 inches of water and soak overnight (or 8 hours). Strain and rinse black beans.

2. In a large soup pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add onion and jalapeno and sauté for 10 minutes, until soft.

3. Add beans and vegetable broth or water. Stir in ginger, allspice, thyme and salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour 30 minutes.

4. Add sweet potatoes and brown sugar and simmer for an additional 30 minutes, until beans and sweet potatoes are soft. 

5. Puree 1 cup of the soup in a blender and then add it back into the soup pot. Stir in cilantro and green onion. Salt and pepper to taste.

I used homemade vegetable broth, which I keep stored in the freezer, and fresh cilantro from my garden, which saved me additional money. I served the soup with organic homemade bread, which costs less than $1/loaf, so the full organic meal would be under $2 a person! Take that, Panera! This soup would go great with fresh mint mojitos, as well. 

Storage: Soup always tastes better the second day! Also, black bean soup freezes well. I store individual portions in the freezer in reused glass mason jars (never throw away the jars from store bought pasta sauce and salsa!).

This soup is delicious and oooh snap, it's vegan, too! Your skeptical friends and family will enjoy it and never notice. Use this recipe tomorrow for a slow food $5 value meal day or as part of your commitment to a Meatless Monday!