Seasonal Flavors: Black Beans and Eggplant


By Elena Day

I’m writing this as “Frankenstorm” is hammering the eastern portions of our state and drenching our area with a cold rain. My husband just returned from warm and sunny Brazil where he ate pineapples and other fruits he cannot name and drank avocado and cashew juices. I was inspired to make him a spicy Brazilian black bean soup to help transition him back to autumn in Central Virginia.

Brazilian Black Bean Soup

  • 2 cups black beans
  • 1 medium onion 
  • 3 cloves garlic 
  • 1 carrot 
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 2 red or green sweet peppers*
  • 1 cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • juice of 1 lemon or lime
  • juice of 1 orange
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • salt & black pepper to taste

Rinse beans. Place in saucepan with 4 cups water and bring to a boil. When boiling, turn off heat and let stand for 1 hour.

Chop onions, press or chop garlic, chop carrot, celery, and peppers. Begin by sautéing onion and garlic in butter and oil. As the onion softens, add carrot, celery and peppers. Sprinkle with salt and add cayenne pepper with at least some of the seeds removed. (I don’t like things too hot!)

Add beans to the pan and more water if necessary.  Cook covered on low heat until beans are done. (A tight fitting lid is necessary.)

Season soup with the juice of a lemon or lime and orange. Add salt and black pepper to taste. Slices of orange are an appropriate garnish but optional.

*I prefer the Italian sweets or Cubanelles to bell peppers for sautéing.

*  *  *

This month marks the end of the garden unless, of course, one continues to grow lettuces and greens of the Brassica genus. Having picked quite a large number of eggplants in anticipation of an early frost that didn’t happen (and hasn’t happened yet!), I got exercised over what to do with them all. I came upon a recipe for eggplant sauce and quickly adapted it to what I had available.

Eggplant Sauce

  • 2 lbs eggplant
  • 2 red or green bell peppers 
  • (or 4 Sweet Italians)
  • 1 medium onion
  • 3-4 garlic cloves 
  • 1 cayenne pepper
  • 3-4 sprigs of parsley
  • 7-8 basil leaves
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 1/3 cup sliced black olives
  • 1 tbsp capers
  • 3 tbsps olive oil
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine

Cut eggplant into 2 to 3-inch lengths, ½ inch wide. Place in colander within a bowl and sprinkle with salt. Let stand and drain 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Very briefly sauté thinly sliced garlic cloves and seeded cayenne pepper in olive oil. Add thinly sliced onion and parsley sprigs. Turn down the heat, stirring occasionally until onion softens. Add peppers that have also been thinly sliced. Salt sparingly (or to your taste) and continue to cook and stir until the peppers are tender.

Add eggplant, tomato sauce, basil leaves, wine, olives and capers. Coat all ingredients by turning them over a couple of times. Place a tight fitting lid over the skillet and simmer for about 45 minutes, adding some water if necessary so vegetables don’t stick. The sauce should not be watery at the end.

Boil pasta in salted water. Drain. Toss with 1 tbsp of olive oil (or butter). Serve topped with eggplant sauce and some grated Parmesan or Romano cheese.

Don’t forget to accompany the pasta dish with some crusty bread from one of our local bakeries.