Spicy Black Bean Soup, In A Flash

August 3, 2009

 

Categories:
Appetizers, Side Dishes, Soup


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When I was twelve, my family took a trip to see the great canyons and deserts of the American West. My mother had planed a voyage to England, but my father vetoed, insisting that before his children traveled abroad, they ought to see their own country—at least the part he loved best. Up until I was born and my mother got nervous enough to set her own vetoes, my father took annual trips to Monument Valley on his motorcycle. He spent much of his youth gallivanting from New York to Mexico on two wheels and was deeply disappointed when my mother put the kibosh on traveling several thousand miles with her family packed onto a bike and into a sidecar.

BlackBeanSoup1

She gracefully negated the idea, noting that school was out for a mere week, and that we couldn’ t afford to travel by land if we wanted to get home in time. So we flew to Flagstaff, AZ, rented some kind of unglamorous, gold sedan and drove from Bryce Canyon to the Grand Canyon and from Zion National Park to the Four Corners, where we could play hopscotch from Colorado to Arizona to Utah to Wyoming while holding our breath.

spices

What I remember more than anything was the scent of the desert changing from mile to mile. Eucalyptus, juniper, clay, rock: the combinations were heightened at night when the world went black and the dryness of the air made my burnt lips feel tight. When you can feel heat in your cheeks long after the sun has set, you know you’ ve sucked the life out of a day: especially when you get to sleep with a gut full of black bean soup.

Sedona lends itself particularly well to a bowl of this spicy soup. I’ ve never had a properly made spoonful of the stuff without recalling the whine of coyotes and the licks of campfire flames against a sandy floor below the town’ s red rocks. I remember being terrified and enchanted all at once, distracted only by a belly that begged to taste whatever scent was wafting from a nearby canyon kitchen.

Carrots

A few weeks ago I found myself longing for that deep sky, peppered by white dots…cool, windy and smelling like Chipotle peppers in Adobo. It was a rainy, cold afternoon in Connecticut, and I’ d just picked up some bright carrots with which I’ d planned to make a slaw. But raw vegetables were not in the cards on such a damp day. Instead, I wanted to translate the stormy weather into a bowl of something deep and warm.

Fortunately, a bowl of first-rate black bean soup does not require an overnight soak or 4 hours of simmering, despite whatever wild West myths you might have heard. When I found myself with a sudden craving—as much for a memory as for a meal—I tried a quick recipe and was happily surprised by the flavors I could tease from a couple of cans of beans, tomatoes and peppers. It added just the right kind of warmth for a wet, windy evening—the kind you might crave after a long day spent traversing the desert in a saddle: be it of the equine or boxer-twin variety.

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Spicy Black Bean Soup
Adapted from Epicurious
Serves 6

2 tbps olive oil
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
1 red onion, chopped
2 tsp ground cumin
1-2 Chipotle peppers diced, plus 1 tsp Adobo sauce
2 15 oz cans of black beans, undrained
1 15 oz can of diced tomatoes, undrained
1 ½ c chicken broth
½ c sour cream
bunch of fresh cilantro for garnish
S & P

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Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat.

Add garlic, carrot and onion, sautéing until soft, about 6 minutes.

Mix in cumin and Chipotle (add in increments to control heat).

Empty bean and tomato cans into the pot, along with chicken broth, and bring soup to a boil.

Reduce heat to medium, cover, and cook until carrots are soft, about 15 minutes.

Transfer to blender, pureeing in batches—be careful to leave enough room to prevent explosion!

Return to pot. Simmer soup until slightly thickened, about 15 minutes.

Just before serving, remove 1 c of soup and slowly stir in sour cream. Reincorporate into large pot off the heat.

Garnish with chopped cilantro and season with salt and pepper.

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