This could easily be my favourite soup: a rich, warming black bean soup.
- 1 pound dried black beans, rinsed and picked over
- 2 bay leaves
- 5 cups water
- 1/8 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp table salt
Bring all these to a boil together in a large saucepan with a tight lid; simmer 60-90 minutes or until beans are tender. You may have to add a little more water. Discard bay, but do not drain.
- olive oil
- 2 large onions
- 1 large carrot
- 3 medium celery ribs
- 4-6 medium garlic cloves
- 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1 1/2 tbsp cumin
- 6 cups stock (I use veggie boullion cubes; water will also work)
- 1:1 cornstarch/water paste
Heat about 3 tbsp of oil in a large dutch oven or soup pot. Finely dice the veggies, and sautee onions, carrots and celery with a sprinkling of salt. Once soft and lightly browned, reduce heat and add garlic and spices; stir constantly until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add beans, their cooking liquid, and broth. Bring to boil over medium-high, then reduce to low and simmer, uncovered for 30 minutes. Stir occasionally while cooking to mix flavours and keep stuff from burning to the bottom of a cheap pot.
Turn off heat and let sit for 5-10 minutes. Use an immersion blender, or ladle half the solid matter and enough liquid into a regular blender (put a towel over the top for extra insurance against hot soup sputtering), to smooth the texture and mix the flavours further (this is optional but highly recommended). Add about 1 tbsp of the cornstarch mixture and bring the soup back to a boil for 90 seconds, stirring to fully incorporate the cornstarch. Shut off heat and check thickness; add additional cornstarch, bringing back to a boil and stirring with each addition, until the soup achieves a suitable consistency.
Recommended garnishes and additions: Stir 2 tbsp of lime juice in off the heat. The cumin provides lots of heat, so taste before adding tobasco, etc. Top in bowls with sour cream, cilantro (pictured above), diced avocado, diced red onion, or smashed/crumbled tortilla chips.
The flavours of this soup combine well when refrigerated, but the cumin can lose some of its heat once chilled. Add an acid, like more lime juice or vinegar, to perk the soup back up.
(Yes I know it's probably too hot right now for a hot soup. I'll try to track down my gazpacho recipe, though I don't think I have any pictures.)