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Best winter soups: Black bean. December 12, 2012

Posted by ourfriendben in recipes.
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Silence Dogood here. Our local paper, the Allentown, PA Morning Call, featured a variety of black bean soup recipes this morning. (Check them out in the “Life” section at www.mcall.com.) I’m sure they’re good, but I don’t plan to stray from my gold-standard recipe anytime soon. It’s thick, rich and delicious, perfect winter food. I like to serve it with homemade cornbread and a crunchy salad. Yum!

Mind you, this is a savory black bean soup, with plenty of onions, garlic and cumin, so you don’t want to serve a sweet yellow cornbread; mine is a white cornbread with no sweetener, perfect with this soup. A crusty baguette, hot buttered ciabatta rolls, or a slice of warm focaccia would be excellent alternatives. On occasion, we also serve it with (or on) brown rice. (Our friend Ben likes his soup over the rice, while I prefer rice as a side.) A baked potato or roasted sweet potato would also be a good option.

On to the recipe. Enjoy!

                     The Best Black Bean Soup

4 medium or 2 large sweet onions, diced 

3 cloves of garlic, crushed and minced

1 green bell pepper, cored and diced

4 T. extra-virgin olive oil for sauteeing

3 small (15.5-ounce) cans black beans or 1 large (40.5-ounce) can

1 large can crushed tomatoes (or 2 cans Ro-Tel tomatoes if you’d like to add some heat, or 1/2 bottle tomato juice)

1 T. whole cumin seed, or to taste

1 T. dried oregano, or to taste

1 t. dry mustard (such as Coleman’s)

2 t. salt (we like Real Salt) or Trocamare, or to taste

veggie stock or broth

juice of 1 lemon

sour cream

Saute the onion, garlic, green pepper, herbs, spices, and seasonings in olive oil until the onions clarify. (I don’t measure the olive oil, just pour it into a heavy-bottomed soup, stock or other deep-sided pot until it coats the bottom. The more oil, the better, I think. I love my LeCreuset Dutch oven for this.) I keep a box of veggie broth on hand (any brand is fine) and add a splash as needed to keep the onions, etc. from sticking.

Once the onions have clarified, add the beans and tomatoes or tomato juice, stirring well to blend. (You can also add diced paste tomatoes or any tomatoes you have on hand, but be sure to add some canned tomatoes or tomato juice for more concentrated flavor.) Use a potato masher to mash the beans and thicken the soup. (You won’t be able to mash them all, but do your best.) Turn the heat down to a simmer, and stir frequently to prevent sticking. If you need to, add splashes of the veggie broth to prevent sticking.

While the soup’s flavor matures, make your cornbread or rice and salad. (If you want to bake potatoes, you should start them before you begin to make the soup.) Taste the soup and adjust the seasonings if needed. Your goal is a rich, thick, silky soup, with no liquid and lots of body. (By “no liquid” I don’t mean a dry mass of mashed beans, but rather, a moist mashed-potato consistency, rather than random beans floating in fluid. Not as dry as refried beans, more stew-like.)

Before serving, add the juice of a lemon, stirring well to blend. Serve in individual bowls topped with dollops of sour cream. For a more elaborate effect, top with shredded sharp white cheddar, sour cream, and fresh salsa. But this is at heart a simple and satisfying soup. I hope you love it as much as we do, and that it warms heart and soul during the cold months!

Note: By adding as large a quantity of crushed tomatoes or tomato juice as I do, this soup isn’t black; it will be a reddish-brown. But I think it’s worth it for the added flavor. If you’d like a black black bean soup, add just one small can of crushed tomatoes or a cup of tomato juice, and make up the rest with veggie broth.

              ‘Til next time,




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