I have never been a fan of black bean soup. Until now. I was out of my staple pinto beans. I had wanted to make a big batch of refried beans to restore my freezer stash. But Rancho Gordo’s cookbook was calling to me, and I found a large jar of dry black beans I’d all but forgotten. By the time I was done, spicy, garlicky fragrance filled the air and all I could think was, “WOW!”
Ironic that “Hope for Haiti Now” is on. If this is any hint of what treasures other cultures have to offer, we are as rich as all we choose to see and appreciate. It IS a choice. There IS potential. We have so much to learn from this little country, where people have been so resilient. When we help others remove obstacles, we open ourselves to our own greater potential.
This recipe relies on simple ingredients. The secret is in the roasting of the garlic and tomatoes. Also, be sure to give the spices a moment in the skillet, with the onions, to awaken their flavors.
CARIBBEAN BLACK BEAN SOUP
From the “Heirloom Beans” cookbook by Steve Sando and Vanessa Barrington
6 cloves of garlic, unpeeled
2 Tablespoons olive oil, and a little more for drizzling
4 whole fresh plum tomatoes or canned plum tomatoes with juice
1/2 pound (same as 1 1/2 cups) dry black beans*
1/2 medium yellow or white onion, chopped
1 jalapeno chile, chopped
1 medium carrot
1/1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds, toasted and ground
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
2 cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
Freshly ground black pepper
Garnishes: Sour cream, sliced avocado, fresh cilantro, chopped.
*BEANS: I soak my beans overnight, then boil them in fresh water until soft, about 40 – 60 minutes . This is a great time to add flavor by including 1/4 – 1/2 cup chopped onion, a peeled carrot and a stalk of celery into the water. Could you use canned beans? Yes, in a pinch. But the flavor and texture of starting from scratch is worth it.
Pre-heat over to 400 degrees
Put the 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 place 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 20 minutes.
Put the beans and their broth into a soup pot. Warm over low heat.
In a medium, heavy skillet, over medium-high heat, warm the 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the onion, chile and carrot. Saute’ until fragrant and beginning to caramelize, about 10 minutes. Add the cumin, oregano and cayenne to the skillet. Sprinkle lightly with salt. Stir for about a minute, then add the contents of the skillet to the beans. If the bottom of the skillet is sticky, spoon some of the bean broth into the skillet. The flavors from the bottom of the skillet will release and you’ll be able to transfer all the flavor into the beans.
Add the chicken broth to the beans. Remove the garlic peels, and tomato peels. Coarsely chop the garlic and tomatoes. Add to the beans, including any juices from the tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Cook until the vegetables are soft and the flavors are blended, about 15 minutes.
Let the soup cool slightly. Optional: transfer half the soup to a blender. Blend until smooth, then stir back into the pot and adjust seasonings if needed. (Note: Many bean dishes get better as they sit. Saltiness can sometimes fade after a day. Don’t hesitate to refresh with a little sprinkle of salt each time, if you like.)
Ladle soup into warm bowls. Garnish with sour cream, avocado slices and cilantro.