January is National Soup Month 2023!
My second recipe suggestion for National Soup Month is Black Bean Soup. I know, beans, especially dried beans aren’t very sexy. They just hang out in flimsy plastic bags on grocery store shelves with the firmness of a cold stone in your shoe, emitting no delicious aroma to entice you to say “Yes! I’m making beans for dinner tonight!”. The poor dried bean just can’t compete with pasta, pizza or a good steak. But I am here to say there is a place for beans at your table! Especially if you are a soup lover looking to break away from the traditional chicken soup or minestrone.
The black bean is part of the legume family which includes all other dried beans and their canned counterparts as well as peas, lentils, peanuts and similar. Legumes were among the earliest crops to be cultivated. They are high in protein, low in calories, and a source for many beneficial vitamins and minerals. Beans are inexpensive, easy to store dried and many delicious main courses can be created with them. Working with dried beans is super easy. It only requires a bit of planning ahead as they need to be soaked overnight. Or, boiled for an hour before you use them in recipe.
Back in the late 1980’s and 1990’s I was a PBS cooking show junkie. Before the food network there was pretty much only PBS to watch for aspiring foodies and chefs. Sunday was the day that Connecticut Public Television would air these shows. I’d watch with my mom and my grandmother. And, after I was married, I would still watch and then make the dishes that I hurriedly scribbled down while watching. There was no pause, rewind, or website to go to for the recipe!
The Food Network started in 1993, but in my humble opinion those cooking shows on PBS were far more informative and enjoyable to watch. And they still are. They are timeless. We’d watch The Frugal Gourmet with Jeff Smith (until a sex scandal sent him packing), Cooking In with Todd English, The Kitchen Sessions with Charlie Trotter, Simply Ming with Ming Tsai and of course the QUEEN of all cooking shows, Julia Child and all her shows. These were the staple shows for us. But there were others I would watch occasionally. One such cooking show was Cooking With Caprial. Caprial Pence, hailing from the Northwest, won a James Beard award in 1990, has had restaurants and written many cookbooks. This Black Bean Soup comes from one of her shows, probably circa 1994 (I still remember sitting in our living room watching and writing fast so I would not miss an ingredient or step).
I have made this soup every year since I wrote it down. It is a hearty black bean soup with lots of flavor and is perfect for cold winter days and nights. The recipe has been tweaked by me over the years and like most of my soup recipes it makes a good size pot of soup. My soup mantra is always “make a big pot and freeze the rest for later”. If you are going to go through the process of making soup, it really takes no more time to make a larger batch as long as you have a big pot to make it in and freezer space. I hope you enjoy it!
Check out my blog post and recipe for Creamy Tomato and Caramelized Onion Soup
The Best Black Bean Soup
As I mentioned above, this makes a good size pot of black bean soup. If you don't have the desire for so much soup, or a pot or freezer large enough, the recipe is easily cut in half. If you like things spicy, then go ahead and add more chipotle peppers. You can also add in any other fresh chopped hot peppers you desire. Chop them (using disposable gloves) and sauté them with the onions and carrots. Heat wise, I'd say the way the recipe is now most folks that like a good amount of heat will want more than what is called for in the recipe.
4- 1# bags of dried black beans
½ cup O’Live A Little’s Jalapeno Extra Virgin Olive Oil, or…
O’Live A Little’s Habanero Extra Virgin Olive Oil, or
O’Live A Little’s Chipotle Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3 large onions chopped
8 large celery stalks, chopped
6 large carrots, peeled and chopped
4 large cloves of garlic, chopped
½ cup of tomato paste
1 - 7oz can of chipotle peppers in adobe sauce, removed from sauce and peppers chopped (use sauce for another recipe or add to sour cream for garnish dollop on top of soup). Or, 5-8 dried chipotle peppers, re-constituted in hot water and chopped. (It’s often easier to find the canned chipotles in adobe in the grocery store in the Mexican food aisle , but either will work)
2 tablespoons cumin
1 tablespoon salt, more to taste
5 smoked ham hocks or 5 pounds smoked pork neckbones
3- 49oz cans of Chicken or Vegetable broth
Fresh cilantro, scallions, avocado and sour cream for garnish
Any of the above listed Extra Virgin Olive Oils for drizzling
Soak black beans overnight in a bowl covered with water. Be sure water is at least 5” above beans.
The next day, when ready to make the soup, drain beans and set aside
Add the O’Live A Little Extra Virgin Olive Oil of your choice and heat over med high heat till warm but not smoking
Add the onions, celery and carrots. Stir to coat and sauté for five minutes on med high heat, stirring to prevent burning/sticking.
Once the vegetables begin to soften, add the garlic. Stir and sauté for 2 minutes
Add the tomato paste, chopped chipotle peppers, cumin and salt and stir to combine and sauté for 2 minutes.
Add the smoked ham hocks or smoked pork neck bones and stir to combine
Add the black beans
Add 2 cans of the broth and stir to combine / incorporate
Bring to a low boil and then a low simmer, stirring often. Simmer for 1 hour, or until bean are very soft.
Depending on soup thickness preference, while the soup is simmering, begin to add the third can of broth incrementally being carefully to not make the soup to thin in consistency. It is always better to add less broth, more can be added after the soup is pureed.
Once beans are very soft, using a slotted spoon remove approximately one half of the beans and veggies and all the ham/pork from the soup broth.
Discard the ham hocks if using. The meat can be cut off the pork necks, chopped into bite size pieces and added back to the soup after it is pureed.
Using an immersion blender or counter top blender, puree till fairly smooth the remining broth, beans and veggies that are left in the pot. NOTE: if using a counter top blender, do not fill more than half way with hot liquid per batch
Add the puree and the removed bean mixture back into the pot, reheat and add more broth till desired consistency is reached. Taste and add more salt and/or cumin if desired. NOTE: I usually use all three large cans of broth. Also, after the soup cools and is reheated it tends to become thicker. Be sure to have some broth on hand to thin to desired consistency. A bit of water can also be used in a pinch.
Serve with sour cream, chopped cilantro, scallions, avocado and a drizzle of your choice of the O’Live A Little Extra Virgin Olive Oils listed above. And don’t forget the nacho chips and margaritas!