Spicy Black Bean Soup

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Jennifer Pallian
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My sister sent me photos of herself on the first day of spring wearing a tank top and flip flops. Meanwhile, I was on the other side of the country trying to drag my dog out with me for a run while it was hailing. HAILING. As in angry bits of ice thrashing at the earth.

Oliver, whose intelligence may exceed that which I usually give him credit for, refused to move his scrawny Irish Setter butt from where it was planted - safely under the covered entranceway. And when I say refused, I mean he was willing to strangle himself on the leash to avoid the whatever demonic precipitation was pinging off of cars and clattering on the ground. Eyes wild and bulging, ears flattened to his head, nails gripping the ground, and tail tucked so deeply between his legs it came out the front, he would not budge.

I gave in. I thought maybe dogs have some innate sense about an impending apocalypse. So we went upstairs and had a nap instead.

All that to say that while in some parts of the country people have busted out their barbeques along with their flip flops, some of us are still cursing relishing bowls of steaming hot, thick and hearty soup.

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Black bean soup is so flavourful and satisfying, and a perfect vehicle for toppings. How I love toppings! Diced red onion, shredded cheddar, a spoonful of sour cream, pickled jalapenos, sliced green onion, diced tomato and crumbled cotija - pile them on.

I used dried black beans but you can substitute canned to speed things up. The dried beans to canned beans conversion is about 1/2 cup dried per 15-ounce can. So this soup would use 4 cans of beans. If that seems like a lot, feel free to halve the recipe; however, I suggest freezing it in lunch-sized portions to grab and take to work over the next several weeks.

If using the canned variety, you may reduce the simmering time to 15 minutes (but the longer it cooks, the more flavourful it becomes).

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Tips on cooking with dried beans -

Keep in mind that the cooking time varies with how old they are. Fairly fresh dried beans will cook much quicker than those that have been sitting in your pantry for months.

To soak the beans, place them in a large bowl and cover them with water by at least a couple of inches of water. Refrigerate overnight. Or do the quick soak method - place them in a pot, cover with 2 inches of water, bring to a boil, then remove from heat and let stand one hour. Either way, drain and discard the soaking water.

Do not salt the cooking liquid until the beans are cooked, as it will prevent them from becoming tender. Wait to season until after the soup is finished.

In other news... I am thrilled to have been featured in Fine Cooking magazine's Best of the Blogs! If you aren't familiar with Fine Cooking, you should acquaint yourself. It is my absolute favourite cooking magazine. It is beautifully written, with content that I would describe as elevated home cooking, inspired and on-trend without an ounce of pretentiousness. It boasts exceptional recipes that are meticulously detailed in their measurements and cooking directions - they work flawlessly. Every issue is filled with instructional content that fulfills its promise of making you a better cook. And that was not a sponsored plug, I swear. Let's just say that each issue from my 6 years of subscription is dog-eared and covered with flour and/or tomato sauce.

Spicy Black Bean Soup

Serve with sour cream, green onions, chopped cilantro and diced tomatoes.

  • 2 cups dried black beans, picked over, soaked and drained

  • 3 tbsp olive oil

  • 1 large onion, diced

  • 6 cloves garlic, minced

  • 2-3 jalapeno peppers (seeded if less heat is preferred)

  • 6-8 cups water

  • 1 tbsp ground cumin

  • 1 tsp ground chipotle (optional)

  • 1/8 -1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (or to taste)

  • salt

1. Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onions and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and jalapeno and saute 2 minutes more. Add beans, 6 cups of water, cumin and chipotle. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, until beans are tender, about 1 1/2 hours. Stir occasionally, and add remaining water if soup is becoming too thick.

2. Transfer soup in batches to a blender and puree, again adding more water if needed to reach desired consistency. Season with salt, taste, and adjust heat to taste with cayenne pepper.