Thursday, April 19, 2012

Recipe Time!

Alex had a bad dream last night around 2:45 that left him convinced there was a bug crawling around his bed. Seriously, when I made him get back into bed, he crouched on the very tips of his toes on his blanket and eyed the sheets with wide-eyed suspicion. "What's that dot, Mommy? What's that line? What's that, there? No, there!" (Of course his sheets have pictures on them that, in the dark, produce dark patches that could well be bugs. If bugs were, y'know, the shape of Woody's hat.) And of course, by the time I had him convinced that there were no bugs and it was safe to lay down and go back to sleep, he'd been awake long enough that he didn't really want to sleep any more.

He was up for the better part of an hour. Perforce, so were Matt and I. So I'm not terribly coherent this morning.

Luckily, I took pictures as I was making dinner last night (because Matt gave me a new camera lens for our anniversary and I wanted to try it out) so today's entry is going to be a recipe. With pictures! (Er, if you click through the pictures to look at the bigger versions, try to ignore how messy my stove is. Aheh.) This is one of my all-time favorite soups, and it's both cheap and easy to make. Get ready for some truly awesome...

Black Bean Soup

I had this soup when I was in Mexico and loved it. I looked up recipes when I got home, but none of them really matched what I'd had down there. So I reverse-engineered it (I'd say 'cause I'm awesome like that, but really, it was just luck).

You start with a big soup pot, a couple of tablespoons of your choice of oil (I like to use a combination of vegetable oil and butter), and a medium-sized onion, diced. Put it on medium-high heat and sprinkle a little salt on it to help the onion sweat out its flavor.

When the onions are getting translucent and soft, you open two cans of black beans. If you can, get at least one can of them "seasoned". I've been experimenting with the various brands at my store, but really, they're all pretty much the same. Do not drain out the liquid; just dump it all in the pot.

In fact, add about a quarter-cup of hot water to each can and swish it around to rinse out all that tasty goodness. (You're going to have to rinse the can out anyway if you want to recycle it, right? Right?)

Then you add about eight ounces (= 1 cup. ish. I don't measure it, as being off a bit one way or the other won't make a big difference) of your favorite salsa. I'm a certified wimp when it comes to spicy food, so I get mild salsa, but you should use whatever you like. Except this is not the time to go for those delicious fruit-flavored salsas. I'm a peach and pineapple salsa addict, myself, but for this soup, you want plain old tomato salsa.

Dump it on in there and stir it up.

And then you add four cups of broth. I use chicken broth for the light flavor; if you wanted a richer, more complex flavor, you could go for beef broth. If you wanted to go vegetarian, you can use vegetable broth. I buy these 48-oz cartons of broth by the gross during the winter, when I'm making soup two or three times a week.

Yep, just pour it all in there. I did say this was really easy, right? Dicing the onion is pretty much the only real effort involved in this soup. And dicing an onion isn't exactly heavy labor.

Put the lid on it and let it simmer for a while. How long? Eh. If you're in a hurry, five minutes will do. If you like a thicker soup, leave the lid off and let some of the liquid boil off. At any rate, there's no need to go longer than half an hour. Stir it every little bit to make sure the beans aren't sticking to the bottom. And taste it at least once to see how you like the flavor. Add more salsa and/or other spices to taste -- but I never do. (This picture isn't really useful at all. I just think my pot is pretty and wanted to show it off.)

When it's done boiling, move it off the heat...

...and get out your immersion/stick blender. You can do this in a standard blender, in small batches, but that's a huge pain in the ass. Plus, I have a friend who was burned badly making soup in a blender. You can get a decent stick blender for $20 or less, and a pretty nice one for around $50. (Beyond that, you're getting into professional-grade blenders, and if you're going there, you don't need me to tell you about them.) But really, if you're only going to use it for soups, a cheap one is sufficient; the higher wattage blenders are only necessary if they're expected to tackle hard items like ice or nuts.

Digression done. Where was I? Oh, yes. Soup. Blend that mother until it's smooth and creamy. This one turned out a smidge more watery than usual, because I was finishing off that jar of salsa, so I added a little extra water to rinse it all out. Waste not, want not. But I probably should've taken the lid off for a bit to boil off the extra.

Spoon it into bowls and serve with a handful of tortilla chips, or with a spoonful of sour cream on top if you want to be decadent about it.

It's not the prettiest soup, but it's so delicious. Both of my kids love it -- even Alex, who as a rule does not like dinner. I get five or six servings out of this recipe, but those are entree-sized servings. If you were going to serve this as a side dish on, say, taco night or with quesadillas, you could get twice as many servings out of it.


Lynn said...

Sounds tasty. I wonder if I can bring myself to make it. Even with my "don't do that again, idiot" stick blender, I've been petrified of making blended soups. This winter went by with nary a taste of squash soup.

BA Tortuga said...

Have I mentioned that I adore you and I want to make food with you? :D Making this soup as soon as I'm home from GRL