Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Colombian Bean Soup

A good cookbook is a lot like an old hunting dog. Over time, through trial and error, you come to trust it. You develop a tacit understanding: when the cookbook asks you to bother with the fuss of immersion-blendering, or toasting your own spices, you follow. You know that when it says "sift your flour," it means it. Your cookbook has led you through one success after another, and all you had to do was give yourself blindly over to its logic, and follow the directions. I have a few like this.

What I also have, (and maybe you do, too) is a bunch of books I'm wary of. I pick one up and think, Well, sure, there was the triumph of the Chickpea crepes, but what about the let-down of the Citrus Cucumber Salad? What about the Red onion-Horseradish Sauce? How can I ever trust you, when you've led me astray? It's really rather emotional. Anyway, when I picked up this particular cookbook yesterday, determined to find something dinner-worthy, I didn't have my hopes up. I was prepared to be disappointed.

But, lo and behold, it was a happy surprise that greeted me in the bottom of the soup pot. The beans were sultry and flavorful, the citrus juices gave it just the right amount of punch, the dried chili did indeed impart "a smoky, delicate heat." And for how little effort was involved, I'll definitely be making it again. Next time, though, with some sour cream on top.

Colombian Black Bean Soup

1 1/2 cups dried black beans, sorted and soaked overnight in 4 cups water
1 dried chili pepper-- try a habanero, a chipotle, or a pasilla

Drain and rinse the beans. Cover them with fresh water, and throw in the pepper. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer, and let it cook while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

2 tsp cumin seed

Warm a small skillet over medium heat. Add the cumin seeds. Shake the skillet every minute or so as the seeds toast, ensuring they get evenly cooked. Once they're golden-brown, and your kitchen smells like India, scrape the seeds into a mortar and pestle, and grind them into a powder.

1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 green bell pepper, cubed
2 stalks celery, diced

Heat the oil in the same skillet you just toasted the seeds in (it's still warm!). Add the vegetables and ground cumin seeds, and cook, stirring occasionally, until everything is softened and tasty-looking.

This step is optional: Remove the chili from the beans. Hook up your immersion blender, and give it a half-hearted spin in the bean pot. You don't want to puree all of them, just a few.

Add the cooked vegetables to the bean pot. Scoop a little bean liquid out of the pot, and use it to "rinse" the skillet where you cooked the vegetables. Bring the soup to a simmer, and cook ten minutes with the lid off.

3 tbsp orange juice
3 tbsp lime juice
1/2-3/4 tsp salt

Once the soup is done cooking, stir in the juices and salt, and serve. You can garnish with sliced scallions (or better yet, sour cream) if you want. Enjoy!


mushroommeadows said...

The color of the soup looks AMAZING!

Kristina said...

Thanks! It came out a little purple I think-- in reality it's more brownish and beany looking.

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