Friday, February 27, 2009

Black Bean Soup and Friends

Another cold snap has brought on a renewed interest in soup for me. We made a black bean soup a few weeks back, and I decided to reprise it, changing the recipe up a little bit for soup experimentation. I began with a bag of dried beans. This is something I'd never really done until I made that falafel the other week, having always chosen canned beans for ease of use. However, I have realized that canned beans are, for the most part, pointless. Dried beans are much cheaper, and you can control the seasonings, rather than accepting over-salted or odd-flavored beans from a can. Also, the packing liquid in canned beans is often upsettingly slimy. 

Again, learning from my chickpea debacle, I measured the beans before and after the soaking and cooking process and learned that black beans have a 1:2 uncooked to cooked ratio. A one pound bag of beans (3 cups) will yield right around 6 cups of cooked beans, so measure accordingly. 

Delicious Cooked Black Beans:
1 pound bag black beans
1 tbsp. cumin
1 tbsp. garlic powder
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper
1 tsp. smoked paprika
1 tsp. Sriracha

Begin by looking over your beans, making sure that there are no small rocks or other detritus mixed in. Rinse the beans well under cold water before adding the beans to 6-8 cups boiling water. Boil the beans for 2 minutes, then cover and let soak for at least an hour off heat. Once this time has elapsed, put the beans back over heat, add your seasonings, and cook over a low to medium-low heat until the beans have softened to a pleasant texture. They should remain within their skins but yield easily to pressure.

Black Bean Soup and Friends:
6 cups cooked black beans with 1 cup cooking liquid
5 cups stock of your choice
1 cup beer
2 yellow onions, chopped
1 to 1 1/2 cups mushrooms, chopped
2 small or one large sweet potato, cut into cubes
6 cloves garlic (approx. 2 tbsp.)
2 squares dark chocolate
3 tbsp. cumin
1 tsp. smoked paprika
1/2 tsp. cayenne
Salt and pepper

Begin by heating your soup pot over medium-high heat with a good pour of oil inside. Add the onions and mushrooms, salt and pepper well, and cook about 5 minutes until the onions are softened. Press the garlic into the pot, add the cumin and cook 1 minute, before adding the remaining ingredients. 

Leave the pot over medium heat and let the soup cook for 10 minutes before lowering the heat and simmering for 30 minutes. 

Ladle out a good amount of the beans and other vegetables and pulse in your food processor, creating a thick bean mixture. This will add good body to your soup and help thicken it. 

I served this soup with a rice salad, which provided a fresh counterpoint to the earthiness of the soup:

Rice Salad:
1 cup cooked brown or wild rice
1/2 cup frozen corn, thawed
1/2 cup chopped tomato
1/4 cup red onion, diced fine
2 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
1 tbsp. lemon juice
Salt and pepper

Here's everything all put together. Garnish with a bit of fresh cilantro and a squeeze of citrus, either lemon or lime.

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