Everything old is new again. And smokier.
Black bean soup — specifically, that recipe for black bean soup shown above — was one of the first things I ever taught myself to cook. Although I knew how to make a couple of simple things (eggs, beans and rice, lasagna), this was the first time I had cooked something just because it sounded good and not because I had ever eaten it before.
It did not let me down. Hearty and not-too-spicy, it immediately became part of my cooking repertoire, with a few tweaks here and there along the way.
For the past ten years, I’ve been pretty faithful to this recipe, from Vegetarian Times’ Low-Fat & Fast, but I think I’ve found the thing it’s been missing this whole time: chipotles — large jalapeño peppers that have been smoked and dried. I used the recipe for Smoky Black Bean Soup from How to Cook Everything, adapting it to what I had on hand, and it was sensational.
I’ve always been really put off by the idea of using chipotles before (the least of my concerns being the fact they look a bit like a discarded cigar butt) but the chipotle adds an incredible smoky note to this soup. I honestly wish I had known about these when I was still vegan and I craved the smokiness of a good bacon. Although I took the pepper back out of the soup before puréeing it, I think you maybe could leave it in for extra heat? I’m honestly not entirely sure — the mysteries of the chipotle still elude me.
Smoky black bean and roasted corn soup
Sauté an onion and a few cloves of minced garlic in small amount of oil or butter. When soft, add a tablespoon of chili powder and cook another minute or so. I added about 3 cups of beans plus 3 cups of cooking liquid from my favorite method of cooking beans, but you can use canned beans (plus liquid or stock). Add a good-sized chipotle to this, bring to a boil then turn down to a simmer for 10-15 minutes. Fish out the chipotle and purée with a stick (or regular) blender to the consistency you’d like. Stir in two cups of fire-roasted corn (I used Trader Joe’s frozen corn, but any kind would do), squeeze in about half a lime’s juice, and serve with sour cream or crema.
Oh beans, I done you wrong and now I’m sorry.
I have never been keen on the humble bean.
I cook them because they’re cheap, they’re a good source of protein, they’re better for the environment, et cetera — but I’ve never cooked them because I like them. They’re either mealy or mushy and always completely bland.
Oh, how wrong I have been.
Until recently, I was firmly under the impression that adding salt to beans as they cooked made them soften slower and therefore need to be cooked longer. As it turns out, cooking the beans in salted water makes them cook faster, and more importantly, it makes them taste better. I also found this batch was the first time I’d cooked beans that kept their skins on and didn’t disintegrate before they were cooked all the way through. Each bean remained its own discrete jewel of cumin-scented goodness.
The recipe is based on the Cuban Black Beans recipe on CookForGood.com:
1 pound of (picked over, washed and soaked) dried black beans
8 cups water
1 tablespoon salt
5 bay leaves
5-8 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced in half
3/4 teaspoon cayenne powder
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
I never remember to soak beans the night before so I boil them for about 2 minutes, then let them sit for 1-2 hours before cooking. After soaking, drain the beans and add all remaining ingredients, bring to a boil, then simmer until done (usually about 2 hours, but depending on how long you soaked them and the age of the beans, it could vary).
After eating them over rice and tossed in a salad, I took what was left and made it into black bean soup.
This was just one of those “throw stuff in from the fridge and hope it works out” soups, which could have been okay at best, but the beans… MY GOD, THE BEANS. I had added some garlic and some tomato paste into the soup pot and I wasn’t that impressed with the result, but as soon as I got the stick blender in there, all the flavor inside the beans came out — the cumin, the garlic — everything came out into the taste of the soup. I already wish I had more.
Beans, can you ever forgive me for treating you so bad?