Sunday, January 12, 2014

Black Bean Soup Tonight

Cuban-inspired Black Bean Soup makes a hearty weeknight dinner that can be made in under half an hour.  Beans are one of the five foods we've touched on to eat more of this year and having a few simple recipes that can be made from pantry ingredients makes enjoying these foods easy. 

Flavor low-sodium canned beans and canned broth with herbs and spices and a touch of salt to customize a really healthy meal that has room for your own flair.  We use a combination of beef and chicken broth but vegetable broth and water easily creates a vegetarian version.  This recipe keeps it simple with few ingredients but you can add shredded carrots, diced tomatoes and finely chopped onion to the simmering soup to add to the nutrients and the depth of flavor. 

The most important key to developing the flavor in a soup like this is the let it simmer for at least ten minutes, stirring occasionally, so that the ingredients can meld together and the spices and herbs fully hydrate.  Partially mashing the beans thickens the soup without any extra ingredients or thickening agents.  We keep the bean liquid but many people drain their beans before adding especially if not used to eating beans frequently.* I cannot find any hard facts but I have noticed that people who are sensitive to beans do very well with black beans. 

All kinds of extras can be added to make this soup feel bigger.  Serve it with a scoop of cooked rice or other cooked grain, add some diced chicken, shredded pork or sliced seiten.  My favorite unusual item to garnish the soup is diced mangoes.  Mangoes mix with the chopped red onion and lime juice for a fresh counterpart to the beans. 

Black Bean Soup Tonight
Serves 4 (1 quart soup)

Ingredients
2 cans low sodium black beans
2 cups broth or broth with up to 1/2 cup water
1 garlic clove, peeled and slightly crushed
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon salt
Optional: pinch cayenne

Garnishes:
chopped, fresh cilantro
diced red onion
grated cheese
sour cream
chopped avocado
chopped mango
chopped tomatoes
lime juice

Method
  1. Combine beans and broth in a medium saucepan with a heavy bottom. 
  2. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and add all the seasonings and the garlic clove.  
  3. Cook ten minutes, uncovered ay a low bubble, stirring occasionally to prevent beans from sticking to bottom of  pot.  
  4. Taste and add more salt or heat as needed.  If you are using it, a pinch of cayenne can go in now.
  5. With a spoon, remove the garlic clove and discard.  Use a potato masher or the back of a fork to mash most of the beans and thicken soup.  (You can also use an immersion blender but use a gentle touch so that you do not over-puree the soup).
  6. Serve with rice, leftover cooked proteins and, above all, colorful garnishes.
*Note: So much has been written about how to adapt to eating more beans. Here is a nice compendium of advice that also explains the background in simple language.