Black Bean Vegetable Soup

Filling yet light, hearty yet summery, this soup is a study in contrasts. Most black bean soups make me think of winter or fall; thick, hearty soups flavored with ham hock or bacon, and blended unti they are almost a dip you can eat with tortilla chips. This black bean soup, in contrast, is light and summery, despite the fact that summer vegetables are still a couple of months away.

I love meals like this: it makes me so happy to pull ingredients out of the freezer or pantry that I made myself, or carefully preserved during the height of last year’s harvest, and whip up a tasty and satisfying dish.  In this soup, the onion, garlic and carrot were all from Madura Farms, and picked up at my weekly farmer’s market; the summer squash was grated and packed into small Ziplocs, in 1/2-lb portions, by me last summer; the corn was grilled by Tai, then cut off the ear and flash-frozen; the habaneros were gifted to me from a friend’s organic CSA, and have been flavoring my meals all winter long.  The salsa was homemade from some of the precious few tomatoes of last year’s blighted crop; the tomato paste also homemade, from the abundant ’08 season; the stock a homemade chicken/turkey mix and the chives were a volunteer surprise in a garden container that did not get emptied before winter.  The beans were from Cayuga Pure Organics (I finally managed to pick some of these local beans up from the Wild Hive Cafe) that I had cooked the other day to make veggie burgers.  All in all, this soup came together in about 15 minutes, in the midst of a kitchen belabored by some serious Spring cleaning: it was a simple, one-pot dish, and perfectly delicious for lunch while taking a well-earned break on the back deck.

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Black Bean Vegetable Soup

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 tbsp bacon grease or olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, diced
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled or scrubbed, diced
  • 1 cup corn kernels (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 cup grated summer squash (fresh or frozen), excess water squeezed out or drained (if fresh, sprinkle with salt and let drain for 20 minutes)
  • 1/4 tsp finely minced habanero pepper (fresh or frozen)
  • 1/3 cup spicy red salsa
  • 3 cups cooked black beans (or 2, 15-oz cans, rinsed)
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp dried cilantro, or 1/2 tbsp fresh, chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • fresh snipped chives, for garnish

METHODS

  1. Heat the bacon grease or oil in a Dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat until shimmering.  Add onions, garlic, carrots, summer squash, corn, and habanero.  Saute over low heat, stirring ocassionally, until softened, fragrant and beginning to caramelize, about 10 minutes.
  2. Add salsa, beans, stock, tomato paste, cumin, oregano and cilantro.  Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes to allow flavors to blend.
  3. Taste and adjust spices.  Serve garnished with fresh chives, a dollop of yogurt or creme fraiche, or, for the spice lover, a pickled pepper.

Serves 4.

OPTIONS

  1. Chopped fresh, frozen or canned tomatoes & bell peppers could replace the salsa. 
  2. Fresh cilantro or parsley would add a nice note to this soup.
  3. Vary the vegetables and herbs according to what you have on hand; the soup is very adaptable.

STORE

Will only improve over a few days.  Store refrigerated for up to 1 week, or frozen for up to 2 months.

SEASON

Year round.

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