How many black bean soup recipes does one blog need? Apparently at least one more. I made this soup on Sunday afternoon, in the midst of a (another) 3-day power outage from the latest freak storm, this one an October snow storm that dumped more than a foot of wet, heavy snow in our neighborhood. Tree branches cracked like gunshots, telephone poles snapped like toothpicks: our neighborhood is a mess. Most of Connecticut and our little swathe of New York lost power: for days on end (and some are still suffering without power; fingers crossed that everyone has it back soon!). Here we go again.
Dried beans wouldn’t be my first choice in a power outage: they keep for ages, after all, without any need for a working refrigerator or freezer. Usually I am looking to cook any fresh food in the fridge, or thawing food in the freezer, to eat before they can go bad. Luckily, I was away last week, at a conference in DC, and the fridge was pretty bare. And I had soaked the beans on Friday night, before I realized Halloween Snowpocalypse 2011 was on its way. Black bean soup it is.
I did visit my farmer’s market on Saturday morning, shivering in solidarity with the farmers as the snowflakes flew, and picked up some scallions, carrots, leeks, apples, potatoes, and of course, the all-important impending-storm eggs (the Wave Hill bread folks were not there, nor was the guy who brings Ronnybrook milk, so I could not get the Emergency Food Trifecta of milk + eggs + bread. No Disaster French Toast for me!). A pile of veggies, some leftover grease from our it’s-thawing-anyway-so-we-might-as-well-eat-a-pound-of-bacon breakfast, and the soaked black beans? Soup’s on.
This hearty soup is a one-pot wonder, so works very well if all you have to cook on during a power outage is a single camp stove or hotplate. Our gas stovetop works perfectly fine without electricity, as long as we light the burner with a match, but, when you’re washing dishes with snowmelt, one pot meals are key. This soup is also nicely warming on the inside, in case your heat is electric and you’ve been shivering under multiple blankets for days. But the main reason for posting this soup recipe? It’s not because it is so original: in fact, it’s not so different from this one. It’s the texture: crushing the beans with a potato masher, instead of my usual immersion blender, made a much chunkier, and quite delightful, soup. It’s so we remember, that even when you do have electricity, sometimes it’s good to go old school: bust out the masher and have at it. Your soup will thank you.
- 1 lb dried black beans (I used local organic black turtle beans, grown in Cazenovia, NY and sold by Wild Hive Farm)
- filtered water
- 2 tbsp bacon grease or olive oil
- 3 large scallions, washed & trimmed, thinly sliced, dark green parts reserved
- 2 large carrots, washed & peeled, sliced lengthwise, then thinly crosswise
- 2 stalks celery, with leaves if possible, thinly sliced
- 2 mild green chile peppers, thinly sliced, with seeds
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled & minced
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- salt (about 1 tsp) and freshly ground black pepper (about 1/4 tsp) to taste
- 1/2 tbsp Better than Bouillon organic chicken base, or 1 bouillon cube, optional
- Rinse and pick through the black beans, discarding any old, dried out or floating beans. Cover with cool filtered water by 2 inches: allow to soak overnight.
- Heat bacon grease or oil in a 5-quart Dutch oven or soup pot over medium-high heat until shimmering, but not smoking. Add scallions (white & pale green parts only), carrots, celery, chile peppers and garlic; reduce heat and sauté until softened, about 7 – 10 minutes. Add beans with the soaking water, plus additional filtered water to cover beans by 1 inch. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until just beginning to soften, about 1 hour.
- Add salt, stir, cover and continue to cook until beans are tender, another 30 – 45 minutes. With a potato masher, crush beans repeatedly until soup thickens to your liking. Add cumin and black pepper; taste, adjust seasonings, and add bouillon if needed. Serve hot, garnished with dark green scallions.
- Many different vegetables work well in a bean soup like this: use up whatever is in the fridge and threatened by a potential week-long blackout.
- Soak the beans in water, and use the soaking liquid in the soup for maximum flavor, but feel free to add stock instead of water for the additional liquid (especially if it is thawing away in the freezer).
- Obviously, if the electricity is working, you can use an immersion blender. But really: I love the texture using the potato masher. I recommend it.
- With the exception of the cumin, black pepper, and bouillon, this soup was 100% local. Bouillon could be replaced with homemade, local chicken stock. Cumin can be grown in the Northeast and the seeds harvested and ground.
Stores well for a day or two at room temperature, in case you don’t want to open the fridge. If power is out, keep overnight at least at room temp, in order to cool completely: hot soup in the fridge will just warm it up that much faster. Keeps up to 1 week refrigerated, when the power is back on!