I’ve only had black bean soup a couple of times in my life and let me say that none of them were memorable. Not a single one. That led to me never considering it as a serious soup option as a starter course or a meal.
Last week though, we were down to the barest basics. There were bags of beans still plentiful in the cabinet so I figured I’d give the old Test Kitchen recipe a go. I had all of the ingredients on hand. The Hero, in true Hero fashion, gave me the once over when I said we were having black bean soup for dinner. At that point, I’d already decided no matter what, I would eat it all if necessary.
Even though I’m a change the recipe kinda girl, I didn’t modify this one too much. I happened to be drinking a Heineken at the time and would sporadically pour some small amounts into the pot when it was looking a little dry. If I had to guess, I’d say it was around an ounce of beer. Not enough to make a difference, but just enough to keep The Hero from fussing at me about pouring out beer.
I also cringe when I see ‘water’ in a recipe. Instinctively, I use broth because I like the flavor it adds. It made all the difference in the world. And if you like leftovers, the soup gets better with time. On day 3, it was fantastic!
Black Bean Soup
adapted slightly from Cook’s Illustrated The New Best Recipe cookbook
- 1 pound (2¼ cups) dried black beans, rinsed and picked
- 1 medium bell pepper, cored, seeded and quartered
- 13 cups chicken broth
- 1 medium onion
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1½ teaspoons salt
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion, minced
- 1 red, orange or yellow bell pepper, cored, seeded and minced
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- 6 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
Finishing the soup:
- About 2½ cups chicken broth
- 4 tablespoons flour
Place the beans, bell pepper and chicken broth in a large pot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, reduce to low, simmer and skim the surface for any scum that rises.
Stir in the onion, garlic and salt and bring back to a simmer. Cook, partially covered, until the beans are tender, but not splitting, about 2 hours.
For the sofrito, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, and salt and saute until the vegetables soften. Add the garlic, oregano and cumin and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Add 1½ cups of beans and 2 cups of cooking liquid or chicken broth to the sofrito pan. Mash the beans until smooth. Simmer, uncovered, over medium heat until the liquid is reduced and thickened, about 5 minutes. Return the sofrito mixture to the bean pot. Simmer, uncovered, until the flavors blend, about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, stir together 4 tablespoons of flour (or 2 tablespoons of cornstarch) with 2 tablespoons of broth to form a smooth paste. Stir the paste into the soup and simmer until thickened, about 5 minutes. Season to taste.