Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Black Bean Soup

Here in Chicago, the weather feels more like autumn than winter, but we've been craving winter foods just the same. Taking my cue from a recently acquired Williams-Sonoma cookbook, I made a fragrant, simple black bean soup for dinner tonight.

After soaking about two cups of black beans overnight, I made the dish on the stovetop. I chopped the vegetables (two onions, one red bell pepper, one seeded jalapeno, two cloves of garlic) in the food processor, then sauteed them in a stock pot with some cumin and oregano. I used just a couple tablespoons of olive oil.

Once the veggies were soft and the spices fragrant, I added the beans, one hamhock, and enough water to cover everything. The soup simmered on the stovetop for about two hours, until the beans were cooked through. I drained out some of the water and reserved it, then started processing the soup until it had the desired texture. I was going for a thick base, with a few whole black beans mixed in.

We then topped the whole thing off with a wonderful salsa crema - a fresh tomato salsa mixed with sour cream and lime juice. A little dollop of the crema with a sprig of fresh cilantro rounded out the meal very nicely.

The soup turned out well, although next time I would skip the hamhock in favor of two or three slices of well-chosen bacon. I think this dish could easily be adapted to the crock pot - just saute your vegetables first. In fact, I would guess that the soup would benefit from the longer cooking time of the crock pot. The flavor certainly matured by the time we reheated the soup for lunch the next day.

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