We ate the last of the pot of black bean soup today, and I’ll miss it – the soup silently helped meet our daily vegetable quota all week. It was pretty fantastic, actually, despite being completely vegetarian – vegan, even (no offense to meatless meals, but I usually prefer a bit of smoky ham or spicy sausage to flavor my black bean soup). Despite this shortcoming, it was absolutely delicious, due in part to the lone fresh jalapeño, and to the fact that it had had so much time for the flavors to really get to know each other. I am never going to feel the need to add meat to a black bean soup again. Since I had already eaten several bowls of it this week, today I felt experimental, and crumbled a bit of feta overtop.)
We ate it before going to my nephew Ben’s birthday party, as insurance against the plethora of fifth-birthday-party-food that was sure to be there. Not that hunger has a lot to do with it in the presence of cheesies, chicken wings and cupcakes, but being starving upon arrival doesn’t help. Plus, a bowlful of veggies and beans acts as a sort of nutritional ballast against all that yummy junk.
Black Bean Soup
This soup improves in flavor and spiciness after a day or two in the fridge. To make a meal of black bean soup a little more substantial, put a scoop of rice into each bowl and ladle the soup over it. A crumbled spicy Italian sausage or bit of diced ham is also delicious – sauté either along with the onion at the beginning – this will of course cook the sausage, but adding either at the beginning will allow it to flavor the entire pot of soup, something that wouldn’t happen if it was thrown in at the end.
A drizzle of olive or canola oil
1 onion, peeled and chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped, including the leafy parts
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced, or 1 Tbsp. chopped canned chipotle chilies
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 small red or yellow bell pepper, seeded and chopped
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 19 oz. (540 mL) can black beans, drained
1 can sweet corn niblets (optional)
1 14 oz. (398 mL) or 28 oz. (798 mL) can diced or stewed tomatoes
1-2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
Salt and pepper
Sour cream, chopped cilantro, chopped green onions and/or crumbled feta cheese (optional
Heat the oil in a large saucepan set over medium-high heat and sauté the onion, carrot and celery for about 5 minutes, until they begin to soften. Finely chop the jalapeño, removing the seeds first if you don’t want your soup to be too hot – the seeds contain the most heat. Add them to the pot along with the garlic, red pepper, and cumin and cook for another minute. Add the beans and tomatoes, without draining either of them, and the chicken stock. Bring the soup to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for 15-20 minutes, until the carrot is tender.
If you like, you could use a blender, food processor, or hand-held immersion blender to process about half of the soup until smooth, then return it to the pot. Process as much or as little of the soup as you want to make the consistency as chunky or smooth as you like, or leave it all chunky, which is what I did. Turn the heat down and simmer the soup uncovered for half an hour or so to allow it to thicken slightly. Season to taste with salt and pepper. You could eat it right away, but I like to cool it down and then stash the whole pot in the fridge for a day or two to allow the flavors to improve. Reheat in individual bowls as you need it, or pull the pot out of the fridge, set it back on the stovetop, and heat it through.
Serve hot, with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle of cilantro, green onions and/or feta cheese on top to add a cool and creamy relief to the spicy soup.