Erica's Black Bean Soup

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See the recipe here.

I made this soup this past weekend in preparation for a big winter Olympic event! Success! I served it with out-of-the-box cornbread, which was well received, but a little on the dry side. This might be either because the pan I used (8x8 as called for by the recipe on the box) was too big, making the cornbread too thin, or because the boxed ingredients had a blend of whole wheat in it.

  • Claire was right. You should use the entire bunch of cilantro. I was a bit wary of this, having over-cilantroed soups in the past. But I was persuaded to do so by the fact that in the recipe above, the word "ALL" was written in caps. Stewing the cilantro for 15 minutes or so allowed it to blend nicely with the soup's other flavors. To chop, I stuck the whole bunch in the food processor and pulsed. Never again will I hand chop bunches of herbs!
  • Next time I'll use less tomatoes. I think a smaller can would do me. As it was, they added an almost sour note to the soup that I didn't like but remedied with sugar. Perhaps this would be less pronounced if using fresh tomatoes, but then, one would have to use fresh tomatoes.
  • I did use the immersion blender on it. I tasted the soup before and after and would say both ways are nice, but different. I didn't over-process; just a couple pulses for texture. Basically, mashing up the beans a bit makes the soup feel heartier, but the broth is silky smooth and delicious as is.
  • I used dried beans instead of canned. Soups are the perfect occasion for this process because you have to cook the beans for a long time anyway, and for those of us not using chicken stock, the flavor of the beans greatly enhances the base. I find black beans to be the most troublesome to cook. They take so long. I soaked them overnight, drained, and then hard-boiled the next day for 10 minutes. I then cooked them as the base of the soup stock for the next 2.5 hours. While at last properly done, they were by no means "soft." I should confess that the beans were pretty old, but I've had fairly consistent trials with black beans.
  • In addition to the spices called for, I also chopped up a few jalapeños to sauté with the onions. I have come to enjoy using real peppers in dishes because they bring such nice flavorings in addition to the heat.

Overall, I'd say the black bean soup was a success, but probably, alas, not a staple. I'm not exactly sure what the strange alchemy is that makes a dish a "staple," (by staple I mean, I can eat it with great gusto on a daily basis), something like tomatoes+cheese+pasta or rice. Hmm. That might indeed be it for me.

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