Sunday, April 6, 2008

Spicy Black Bean Soup; Ramblings of Spring

Recipe: Spicy Black Bean Soup

I love black beans, in everything from southwestern-inspired salads to the Cuban dish of black beans and rice to black bean soup. I have found that, although I still enjoy canned black beans in a recipe, the cooked dried beans have a superior flavor and texture. Because of this, every few weeks I soak and cook a pound of dried black beans. If I can’t use them up within a few days, I will dump them into a plastic freezer bag, seal, shake them a bit while they’re lying on a baking tray, the put the tray in the freezer. When the beans are frozen, I’ll open the bag, break the clumps of beans up a little, let some air out, then close it tightly. Freezing the beans in this way will make it much easier to dip a measuring cup in to take out an exact amount, rather than having a solid lump of frozen beans to deal with.

Recently I was checking out some new blogs and found a recipe for black bean soup garnished with a blend of roasted red peppers and sour cream. This reminded me of a soup which I made for a dinner party a couple of years ago which featured black bean soup ladled into a bowl side-by-side with butternut squash soup (which, when done carefully, made a beautiful presentation) garnished with a puree of roasted red pepper in the center.

I realized that I have not made black bean soup since last fall, and decided that I would make a pot to use for a couple of lunches this week. I used my regular recipe, but added sour cream to the roasted red pepper puree idea. This soup is wonderful. It is thick and hearty, flavored with
turkey bacon (which could be eliminated if a vegetarian version is desired), with bits of vegetables, and that roasted red pepper/ sour cream blend on top is a perfect addition. When I cook black beans, I add 5 or 6 whole black cardamom pods which give the slightest “smoky” flavor without adding meat. Although, because I wanted to, I did add turkey bacon to the soup.

I had bought two dozen huge red bell peppers late last summer and spent a few hours roasting them on the outdoor grill, then steaming and peeling them. Layered in freezer containers, all I needed to do when a recipe required roasted red pepper throughout the winter is to let the container thaw for a bit, take out the semi-thawed peppers, and cut off what was needed. Very easy and it’s a snap, then, to make things like this roasted red pepper sour cream at the last

One last note before the recipe. On the blog where I found the idea for the roasted pepper sour cream, the author made a point of suggesting the use of full-fat sour cream because it’s only a tablespoonful per serving and that she prefers to use “the real thing, not a factory version”. I disagree.

First, the brand of sour cream which I use is all natural, made from skim milk. Some brands add gelatin to thicken the cream, and it tastes odd to me. Daisy Light Sour Cream has a good mouth-feel and is sweet and tangy.

Second, I ran the numbers in the nutritional data from Mastercook and found that the soup using the full-fat sour cream would contain 2g more fat, 1g saturated, than using the light sour cream. “Well”, you may ask, “what’s the big deal? It’s only 2 stupid grams of fat!”. Yes, but especially as you get older and your metabolism slows, every little bit counts. It’s all cumulative. If I buy a 16-ounce carton of full-fat sour cream, I will use it (even if that takes a month) and I’ve ingested 75 grams of fat rather than 37. It all adds up. I try not to be obsessive, but I do
watch what we eat very carefully. I have to. Dear heaven, I’m going to hit the half-century mark later this month! *sniff*

* Exported from MasterCook *

Spicy Black Bean Soup with Roasted Red Pepper Sour Cream

Recipe By: Vicci

Servings: 10

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method

--------- ---------- ----------------------------------------

1 pound dried black beans

5 whole black cardamom pods -- optional

1 tablespoon olive oil

6 slices turkey bacon -- halved lengthwise then sliced into 1/2" wide pieces

1 1/2 cups chopped sweet onion

4 large garlic cloves -- minced

1 cup chopped celery

1 1/2 cups chopped carrot

2 tablespoons ground cumin

3/4 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper -- (can substitute minced canned chipotle- start

with 1 teaspoon

plus about a half teaspoon of the adobo sauce which it is canned in)

3/4 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

15 ounces canned diced tomatoes -- undrained

7 cups low sodium vegetable broth – divided

chopped fresh cilantro, as needed

2/3 cup light sour cream -- (I use Daisy light sour cream because it all natural

cream, no additives)

1/4 cup roasted red peppers -- chopped finely

2 tablespoons skim milk

1 small garlic clove -- crushed

1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper

1/4 teaspoon salt

Rinse the dry beans and pick over to remove dirt and other debris. Place in a large saucepan and cover with a lot of water (I use, as a guide, at least twice the amount of water as there are beans as measured in the pot). Allow to stand for 12 hours or overnight. Drain, cover with fresh water, and bring to a boil. Add cardamom pods and simmer, covered, until tender (about 3-4 hours, depending on how old the beans are). Stir and check frequently to always maintain at least 2" of water above the beans. Drain, rinse, and refrigerate or continue with the recipe.

Heat the olive oil in a 5-quart nonstick Dutch oven. Add the turkey bacon and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes or until they just begin to crisp a bit. Add the onion, garlic, celery, and carrot and cook, stirring often, until the vegetables have softened (about 5-6 minutes).

While the vegetables are cooking, place 2 cups of the cooked beans in the food processor and add 8 ounces of the vegetable broth. Puree.

Add the tomatoes to the vegetables, then stir in the pureed beans until well mixed. Pour in the remaining vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Stir in the cumin, chipotle pepper, black pepper, and salt. Add the remaining beans, stir, and return to a boil. Turn the heat to low an, uncovered, for at least 2 hours (up to 3 hours).

Meanwhile, mix the sour cream, roasted red pepper, milk, garlic, pepper, and salt in a small bowl.

Top each serving of soup with a rounded tablespoonful of the sour cream mixture. Sprinkle with cilantro.


"10 cups"

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Per serving: 279 Calories (kcal); 5g Total Fat; (16% calories from fat); 21g Protein; 39g Carbohydrate; 13mg Cholesterol; 791mg Sodium

Food Exchanges: 2 Grain(Starch); 1 1/2 Lean Meat; 1 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 1/2 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates

NOTES : I used cooked, dried black beans rather than canned black beans because I think that they have a much better flavor and texture. Canned black beans will work, as well. As a general rule, a 15-ounce can of canned beans contains 9 ounces of drained beans. A pound of cooked dried black beans weighs 32 ounces. Although a more exact substitution for the pound of cooked dried black beans would be 3-1/2 cans, 3 cans may certainly be used.

The cardamom adds a smoky flavor to the beans. This is optional.

Last Spring, my crocuses boomed a full 2 weeks earlier than this year, but they are now popping out all over. As are the tiny daffodils and even a few of the larger daffodils. The hyacinths look as though they’ll be smellin’ up the place this week sometime. How wonderful is this thing called SPRING??? Even as it rained earlier today, robins were hopping all over the yard, pulling their meals from the ground. I’ve been tossing the lint from my clothes dryer out under the tree near the birdfeeder for their use in making super-soft nests. And, even though it was a little chilly this afternoon, I raised the window just a bit so I could hear the birds sing.

Winter is over. After 81 agonizingly slow days, I can now wear my sneakers again. Joy to the world! :)