Caribbean Black Bean Soup
Difficulty Level: Gourmet
On January 20 I posted a quick and easy black bean soup. It truly was simple (essentially dump it all into a blender or processor), and great. This recipe is not quick as you need to make it stepwise in order to develop the layers of flavor. But give it a try – you will be surprised how a few extra steps along the way changes the texture, smell and flavor of the soup.
A substantial bean soup like this one makes you realize how easy meat-free eating can be. The secret to the rich flavor is in caramelizing of the aromatic vegetables and deep roasting of tomatoes and garlic.
I have mentioned Rancho Gordo heirloom beans in the past – and highly recommend them for this as well as any bean recipe. They are simply the best. They are becoming more available all the time – in stores and online. They sell their heirloom beans “new” – meaning they are harvested, dried and sold to the public within a year. When beans are stored too long, a longer cooking time is needed to soften them. Less cooking time means their delicate flavors are preserved and that they retain their shape when cooked. See http://ranchogordo.com.
Heirloom beans do not require a lot of fussing if they are used fresh, which I would define as within two years of harvesting. I prefer cooking them simply with a few savory vegetables like carrots, onions and garlic. Keep in mind that salt, vinegar, molasses and sugars can negatively affect the beans as they cook. Do not add these flavorings until after the beans are soft and able to absorb them.
- 2 carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed but kept whole
- 1 medium onion, peeled and cut into quarters, root attached
- 1 lb black beans – midnight, valentine or your favorite heirloom bean
- Water as needed to submerge beans
- 2 Tb safflower or grapeseed oil
- 1 large white onion, chopped
- 4 jalapeno chilies – seeds and ribs removed, chopped
- 1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
- Salt and pepper
- 10 garlic cloves, unpeeled
- Extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling
- 6 whole fresh or 16 oz can plum tomatoes, with juice
- 1 carrot peeled and chopped
- 3 tsp cumin seeds, toasted and ground or mashed in a mortar
- 2 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper
- 2 - 3 C chicken or vegetable broth
- Garnishes: sour cream, sliced avocado, fresh cilantro leaves
Soak 1 lb of black beans, after rinsing them in lots of cool water and checking them for small bits of debris. Cover them with about 1 inch of cold water and leave them overnight or all day if you begin the soaking in the morning. They will expand as they absorb the water. So you can remove them later – add large chunks of peeled carrots, the quartered onion and 2 smashed whole peeled garlic cloves to pot. Add more water if needed so the beans are completely submerged by at least 1 inch of water. Bring to a boil, and continue boiling for 5 minutes. Then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. I like to see how low the heat can go and still produce the occasional simmering bubble. If too much heat is escaping, cover the pot partially. If the liquid in the pot starts to get low, you can add more room temperature or warm water. Allow the beans to cook. This can take 1 hour or even 2-3 hours, depending on the age of your beans. When finished, remove the large carrot chunks, quartered onions and smashed garlic and add salt. Go easy as it takes a while for the beans to absorb the salt.
While the beans are cooking, in a medium, heavy skillet over medium-high heat, warm the safflower or grapeseed oil. Add the chopped white onion, the chopped jalapeno chilies, green pepper and carrot and sauté until the vegetables are very aromatic and beginning to brown, 8-10 minutes. Add the cooked vegetables, cumin, oregano, and cayenne to the cooked beans.
|Sauteed veggies with all the herbs and spices|
Preheat the oven to 400 degree F. Put the unpeeled 8 garlic cloves on a sheet of aluminum foil, drizzle with olive oil, and wrap in the foil. Put the tomatoes in a baking dish. If using fresh tomatoes, cut them in half and put them cut side down in the dish. Season with salt, and drizzle with olive oil. Roast the tomatoes and garlic until soft, fragrant and brown, about 30 minutes.
Peel the roasted garlic cloves. Chop the garlic and tomatoes coarsely and add to the bean pot along with 2 C vegetable or chicken stock. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat and cook until the vegetables are soft and the flavors are blended, about 15 minutes.
Let the soup cool slightly. Transfer about half the soup to a blender. Blend until smooth. Return the blended soup to the pot, stir and adjust seasonings. Add more broth as needed to achieve desired consistency.
To serve, ladle the soup into warmed bowls and garnish with sour cream, avocado slices and/or cilantro.
This soup can be made a day in advance and keeps well in the refrigerator for a few days or the freezer for up to a month. Give it a try – you’ll be amazed what a little layering of flavors will do to a bean soup.
Adapted from multiple recipes in the Rancho Gordo Cookbook!