Black Bean Soup and Friday @Chinese Laundry Café

Even though spring has arrived, we are of course still having some chilly Toronto temps. This makes me want to cook soup. Very few things are as comforting, nourishing and soul satisfying as a big bowl or giant mug of homemade soup…. steaming, hot, delicious, healthy, righteous. Very few things are also this easy to make, this forgiving of a culinary boo boo… (or two) or this easy to alter, and make your own.

Black Bean Soup will always remind me of my days working at the Chinese Laundry Café, in Kingston, ON. Every Friday, the soup of the day was Black Bean. The locals, especially the guys, would come for their weekly fix. Some…. twice. Hence, Black Bean Friday.

You can use dried or canned beans. Alter the spices and even the vegetables you add. You can purée it with a stick blender or simply use a potato masher; for best texture, purée only some of it and leave some chunky. Yum. So many choices…

It happily will sit in the fridge for several days, and will reward you with intensity in flavour and thickness.

For heat… choose from fresh or dried chili, chili flakes, chipotle chili powder, smoked paprika, fresh jalapeno… or experiment and make up your favourite combination. Like people, each has it’s own virtue – and taste. If you are using dried or powdered chili or spices, just remember to heat them first – add it to the veg that are sautéing and before you add the stock/water. Much like in Indian cooking, this will really bring to life, the flavours of the spices you use. As well, using this method, you can actually get away with using just water – in place of stock. I’ve been reading, and I do mean seriously reading, Julia Child’s “The Way To Cook” and if in her culinary brilliance she advises making some soups with water for the the flavour of the ingredients to stand out, who are we to argue? It’s also a good way to keep it vegetarian/vegan.

You can also experiment and have a lot of fun with garnishes and toppings…. everything from buttery chucks of avocado, to sour cream or a nice thick yogurt, a grating of your favourite cheese, to chopped fresh chives, parsley or cilantro.

Black Bean Soup

Makes enough for 2 as a main, 4 as a starter
If you’re using dried beans, follow the packet instructions to hydrate – but don’t forget to start the night before making the soup. Remember to sauté the spices in the oil – you’ll get a much tastier soup. Make it often. Customize and make it yours. With beans being so healthy – loaded with protein and fibre – as well as inexpensive, there’s no reason not to.

1 tablespoon oil, olive or vegetable
1 medium onion, diced small
2 carrots, diced small
1 clove garlic, minced 
1 lg potato (or sweet potato), peeled and diced small
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp chili powder/dried chili – use your favourite(s), see suggestions above
1 19 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained (or approx 2 1/2 cups of hydrated dried beans)
hot vegetable stock/water to cover by 1 inch
salt, fresh ground pepper, to taste
1/4 cup fresh parsley or cilantro, roughly chopped, add at end of cooking

In a medium sized saucepan over medium heat, heat the oil and add the onion and carrot; sauté for a few minutes, until starting to soften.
Add the garlic and spices and cook for a couple minutes more, until fragrant.
Add the stock/water, potato and beans, bring to a boil; lower to a simmer, cover and cook for 10 – 15 minutes, until the veg are tender.
Season with salt and pepper at the end – salting beans during cooking can leave them tough.
Purée or mash half of the soup, and let cool.
If possible, let the soup sit in the fridge overnight – to allow the flavours to really come together.
Reheat, and serve with your favourite toppings (ff the soup has thickened too much, add thin with a bit more water/stock).

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