At our house, we have a saying..."Don't yuk my yum!". We are trying to raise kids that aren't picky eaters by exposing them to many different kinds of food. It wasn't that long ago that one of my kids asked "Why can't you cook food like everyone else? Like tater tot hotdish?" The reason? It's not very healthy or creative and I think it's kind of gross. I don't cook like that. I like to use fresh, healthy ingredients to make great tasting good for you dishes. I've created this blog to share my favorite recipes with you.

Follow my kitchen adventures from using up vegetables from our weekly CSA box to baking and creative cooking.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Amazing Black Bean Soup

As I stared into my cupboards this morning planning my weekly menu, I found a bag of dried black beans that had been there for awhile.  With those beans in mind, I started searching the apps on my phone for a recipe that I could use them in.  Normally, I would just soak them overnight, simmer them until they were done, then freeze them in baggies for use with tacos and in soups.  Today, I was looking for something different.  I found exactly what I was looking for on my Epicurious app. 

This soup is not a weeknight soup unless you have done some work ahead of time.  The beans need to be soaked either overnight or quick boiled and soaked for a couple hours.  This worked out perfectly for a Sunday afternoon at home.  While the whole process took several hours, a lot of that time the beans were just sitting on the stove soaking.  Total hands on time was probably about 45 minutes, divided between beginning, middle and end.

Black Bean Soup (makes 6 servings)
1 lb. dried black beans
8 slices bacon, chopped
1 medium onion, diced
1 red or green pepper, diced
1 T. minced garlic
1 minced jalapeno or serrano, depending on how hot you want it (I had roasted serranos so I used one of those)
1 1/2 t. dried oregano
1/2 t. dried thyme or 1 t. fresh
1 bay leaf
1 can diced tomatoes (14.5 oz),  do not drain
6 c. or more chicken broth (I used boxed this time)
 2 T. chopped fresh cilantro
1 lime, juice squeezed out

Pick over and rinse beans.  For quick cook method, put beans in a pot and cover with 2 inches of water.  Bring to a boil, then shut off heat and let sit for an hour or two.  For slow cook method, cover beans with 2 inches of water and refrigerate overnight.  Either way, when beans are done soaking, drain and rinse them. 

Cook bacon in big soup pot over medium high heat, stirring occasionally until crispy.  Drain all but 1 T. of fat off the bacon, then add the onions, garlic and peppers along with the thyme, oregano and bay leaf.  Cook, stirring occasionally, over medium heat until onion is softened, about five minutes.

Add beans, tomatoes and chicken broth, and simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally, until beans are very tender, about 2 1/2 hours.  Discard bay leaf and stir in cilantro and lime juice. 

Even though it is the middle of December, our CSA membership to Red Goose Gardens came in handy once again.  I was able to raid the freezer for thyme, peppers and serranos and could have used some tomatoes if I had thought of it. 

I served this delicious soup with warmed flour tortillas, using the tortillas to scoop some of the stew out of the bowl.  It would also go well with some kind of quesadillas or just plain tortilla chips.

Next time I will cook this in a crock pot after the sauteing step, which will make this soup even easier.  If you like brothy soup, use more chicken broth.  We tend to like stews at our house, so I don't use a lot of broth or water in soup recipes.  The six cups I called for is half of what the original recipe said and it's about perfect for a really thick bean soup.  You could probably skip the cilantro with little effect, but the lime is my own addition and really adds something to the flavor.  I also added the can of tomatoes because I thought it would go well in this recipe and I was right.  If you don't have the tomatoes, you could go without.

My family absolutely loved this soup.  The kids inhaled their bowls and asked for more, wondering when I was going to make it again.  I agree that this is probably one of the best dinners I've made in a long time. 
I can't want to make this again soon and will make sure to double the recipe next time so there are some leftovers.  Yes, we ate a whole bag of dried beans for supper. Don't worry, as part-time vegetarians, we keep a supply of beano in the closet.

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