Healthy Ingredient of the Week – Oregano

Oregano, an herb typically sold in dried form, can pack a big nutritional punch even when used sparingly in recipes.  Oregano is high in antioxidant polyphenols and a good source of Vitamin K.  It also contains fiber, iron, Vitamin C, and many B vitamins – the more oregano used in a recipe, the more these beneficial nutrients will be present.  Oregano is a great way to add a healthy, flavorful kick to pizza and other Italian dishes, but why not think outside the box and try it in a different type of cuisine, like in the dish below?

Cuban Black Bean Soup

Ingredients
2 bay leaves
1 pound dried black beans
12½ cups water, divided
1 tablespoon canola oil
3½ cups chopped green bell pepper (about 3 medium)
2½ cups coarsely chopped onion
⅓ cup chopped shallots (about 2 small)
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons dried oregano
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
1½ tablespoons sugar
2 cups diced peeled avocado
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 cups thinly sliced red onion
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 cup light sour cream
10 teaspoons unsalted pumpkin seed kernels, toasted
⅓ cup finely chopped seeded jalapeño pepper (about 2 medium)
Lime wedges (optional)

Instructions

  1. Place bay leaves and beans in a Dutch oven. Add 12 cups water to pan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 2½ hours or until tender, stirring occasionally.
  2. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add bell pepper, chopped onion, and shallots to pan; cook 10 minutes or until onion is tender, stirring frequently.
  3. Stir in cumin, dried oregano, and fresh oregano; cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat; let stand 10 minutes.
  4. Place vegetable mixture in a blender; add remaining ½ cup water. Puree until smooth.
  5. Add vegetable mixture and sugar to beans; simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Discard bay leaves. Combine avocado and juice; toss gently.
  6. Ladle ¾ cup bean mixture into each of 10 bowls; top each serving with about 3 tablespoons avocado mixture, about 3 tablespoons red onion, about 1½ tablespoons cilantro, about 1½ tablespoons sour cream, 1 teaspoon pumpkinseed kernels, and about ½ teaspoon jalapeño pepper. Serve with lime wedges, if desired.

Recipe adapted from Cooking Light, January 2008

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