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Winter rescues: black bean soup. February 15, 2011

Posted by ourfriendben in homesteading, recipes, Uncategorized, wit and wisdom.
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Ack, winter. Silence Dogood here, with an old friend’s heartfelt cry of “I can’t remember the last time snow just kept piling up here and never melting!” in my mind, my poor little car trapped in the parking square by an ice floe, and the wind howling around the house, promising more bitter cold weather. Ow! Winter, go away, please.

What’s the best way to keep the cold and wintry thoughts at bay? Soup. Thick, rich, hot soup on a cold, miserable day (or worse, night) is the perfect antidote to winter. Here at Hawk’s Haven, our favorite cold-weather soup is black bean soup. But not just any black bean soup will do. It has to be thick, rich, and warming, as opposed to watery and unsatisfying or, like the black bean soup I ate yesterday at a local coffee shop, thick but only thanks to the food processor, with no body or flavor. Good black bean soup has real body, real flavor, enough to sustain body and soul in this bitter weather.

That doesn’t mean it has to be hard to make, though. Try my own simple favorite and see what you think! I love to eat my black bean soup with hot-from-the-oven cornbread or rice and, of course, a big, crunchy salad, but feel free to serve it any way you want. I’ll guarantee this much: You’ll be glad you did!

Here’s a caveat: The color of your black bean soup will be determined by the ratio of black beans to crushed tomatoes or tomato juice. Add more beans for a darker color, fewer for a redder color. Either way, the soup tastes great!

As you’ll see from the recipe, the amount of each ingredient can be increased to suit your tastes or to accomodate what you have on hand. (I’ve used two green peppers when I had some I needed to use up, and I’ve substituted a sliced jalapeno for the hot sauce when I had a fresh one on hand.) For years, I used tomato juice to make this soup, but I’ve recently begun using a big can of crushed tomatoes instead and loved the result. Point being, like most soups, this one is very forgiving and will be delicious however you mix and match ingredients. 

                     Best Black Bean Soup

1 large (40.5 oz.) or 3 small (15.5 oz.) cans black beans, or more to taste

1 large (28 oz.) can crushed tomatoes or 1/2 large bottle tomato juice

2 large sweet onions, or more to taste, diced

1 large green bell pepper, diced

3 large cloves garlic, or more to taste, minced

extra-virgin olive oil for sauteeing

vegetable stock (any boxed brand is fine)

1 tablespoon dried oregano

1 tablespoon whole cumin seeds

1 tablespoon whole black mustardseeds or 1 teaspoon dry mustard

splash hot sauce (we like Tabasco Chipotle or Pickapeppa)

1/3 to 1/2 cup lemon juice (we like Key Lemon) or juice from 1 lemon

Trocomare or salt (we like RealSalt) to taste

lemon pepper or ground black pepper to taste

sour cream

1 bunch scallions (green onions), chopped

Pour enough olive oil in a heavy Dutch oven (I love my LeCreuset enameled cast iron) or stock pot to completely cover the bottom. Add the vegetables and seasonings (except for the lemon juice) and saute until the onion clarifies. Add splashes of veggie stock as needed to keep the veggies from sticking to the pot. Once the onions have clarified, add the black beans, mashing them with a heavy potato masher. Then add the crushed tomatoes or tomato juice, stirring well to mix. If you’d prefer a darker color, add another can of beans and mash again, then stir.

Cook on low heat, stirring as needed, until the soup is heated through and thick, almost the consistency of refried beans. Stir in the lemon juice just before serving, and top each bowl with a scoop of sour cream and a generous sprinkling of scallions.

See how easy it is? Of course, you can use dried black beans, pour boiling water over them, and soak them overnight if you’d prefer. But with cans of beans selling for 59 cents at my local Giant, I’d rather go for the convenience. Once I’ve made the soup and it’s cooking down, I make my cornbread or rice, and while that’s cooking I make the salad, set the table, and pour the wine. At which point it’s time to eat!

I’ll never be one of those “let it snow” people: I hate the shoveling, traffic hazards, and potential power outages that come with winter storms. And I hate cold weather almost as much as summer heat and humidity. But a bowl of thick, hot black bean soup and a hunk of buttered cornbread or a side of rice can go a long way towards making winter bearable.

              ‘Til next time,

                         Silence

Comments»

1. Helen at Toronto Gardens - February 15, 2011

Our daughter turned me on to a black bean soup recipe that’s similar to yours. And, like yours, it’s incredibly easy, incredibly tasty and incredibly satisfying. Must try it tonight with some of my corny corn muffins — I’ll try a couple of your variations, such as the cumin seed. Yum. Thanks for the delicious inspiration.

Corny corn muffins? Yum!!! Let me know how the soup tweaks work!


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