Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Black Bean Soup

When I was a student, there was a dive of a bar where I'd sometimes go for lunch with friends. They weren't known for their food, but it was cheap and filling---both essential for the student budget. Usually, it tasted pretty good too. The only particular dish I can remember from there is black bean soup. It was thick, tasty, and served so that when you dug your spoon into the bowl you'd find fluffy white rice at the bottom. Add some Tabasco sauce and it was oh-so-good. 

That pub is gone now, but when I make this I always think of finding the rice at the bottom of the bowl. I use ham in this recipe, but have used bacon with success as well. If you are vegetarian, I strongly suggest using a vegetarian ham or bacon (or liquid smoke) to give it a good smokey flavor. Tabasco is essential!

This can be made in a slow cooker, or on the stove. For best results, use black beans you've cooked at home; I'm no stranger to using canned, but I think it really does make a difference.

2 T oil
2 onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, pressed
4 c black beans (cooked or canned)
4 c chicken or veggie stock
1 T chili powder
2-3 tsp taco seasoning
juice of 1 lime
salt & pepper
1/2 to 3/4 c cooked ham, bacon, etc., cubed
cooked white rice for serving

Cook the onion and garlic in oil (if making on the stove, do this in a big soup pot; if using a slow cooker, cook in a pan and then transfer to cooker). Add beans, stock, seasoning, and ham. Bring to a boil and simmer 15-20 minutes (if using slow cooker, let it go 6-8 hours, and longer won't hurt). 

At this point you can do one of three things:
(1) leave as is (beans whole)
(2) purée half the soup, to thicken (this is what I usually do)
(3) purée all the soup, it'll be very thick & creamy

Add lime juice before serving, and adjust seasonings. Serve over cooked white rice and garnish with toppings such as avocado, shredded cheese, chopped green onion and/or Tabasco.

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