When I first started to looking into vegetarianism, I checked out The Flexitarian Table by Peter Berley from the library. It was (and probably still is) SO over my head. It called for things like saffron, whole artichokes, aleppo pepper, and bulgur. It had recipes with names like “charmoula lamb/tempe kabobs” and “fregola risotto style with feta cheese and chard.” And, weirdest of all, the recipes were divided into seasons.
What? Didn’t this Peter guy know that beverages go in the beverage section and poultry goes in the poultry section and salads go in the salad section? I mean, how did he get a book published if he lacked basic recipe organizational skills?
Now, I finally get it. In the summer, fresh, organic strawberries taste awesome. In the winter, you can get frozen strawberries, and they’re good, but they’re not awesome. Sometimes, you want watermelon and corn on the cob in January, but more often, you want soup or mashed potatoes. It does make sense to consider seasons when you’re choosing recipes.
A few years ago, on an annual birthday bookstore trip with my aunt, I chose The Daily Soup Cookbook as one of my birthday books. It’s a collection of recipes from a New York restaurant called Daily Soup. It doesn’t have an internet presence, which makes me wonder if the restaurants are still around. Whether they are open or not, they know their soups. Here’s a recipe we tried tonight with my notes at the bottom of the page.
Black Bean Soup with Rice and Guacamole
from The Daily Soup Cookbook
For the soup:
- 2 tablespoons peanut oil
- 1 large Spanish onion, divided
- 2 celery stalks
- 1 habanero chile pepper, seeded and minced
- 1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin seeds
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme leaves
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 pound black turtle beans, rinsed and picked over to remove debris
- 8 cups mineral or filtered water
- 1 28-oz can whole tomatoes, drained and diced
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
For the rice pilaf:
- 2 tablespoons peanut oil
- 1 cup white rice
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 cups mineral or filtered water
- 2 scallions, chopped
For the guacamole:
- 2 ripe Haas avocados, peeled, pitted, and chopped
- 2 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
- 1 small white onion, minced
- 1 serrano chile, seeded and minced
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- To make the soup, heat the oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add half of the onion and all of the celery, habanjero, and garlic and sweat for 4 minutes, until tender
- Add the cumin, thyme, and bay leaves and stir to coat the vegetables.
- Stir in the black beans, 6 cups of the water, tomatoes, pepper, and cayenne. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, partially cover, and simmer for 1 to 2 hours, until the beans are tender.
- Puree about one quarter of the soup in a blender or food processor and return to the pot.
- Remove from heat and stir in the sherry and salt.
- Meanwhile, to make the rice, heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the remaining onion and saute for 2 minutes.
- Stir in the rice and saute for 2 minutes, until the rice is translucent.
- Add the remaining 2 cups of water and salt, bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes, until the liquid is absorbed.
- Add the scallions and toss with a fork.
- To make the guacamole, combine all the ingredients in a medium bowl. Mix well with a fork to combine.
- To serve, remove the bay leaves from the soup, spoon the rice mixture into the bottom of shallow soup bowls, ladle the soup over top, and garnish with a spoonful of guacamole.
Makes: 10 cups black bean soup; 3 cups rice mixture, 1.5 cups guacamole
Honestly, this wasn’t exactly a winter recipe. Peppers and tomatoes are definitely summer fare. However, the soup was hot and filling, and it sat on the stove top bubbling away all afternoon, so it was wintery enough for me. Below are the changes I made to accommodate for the season and my grocery list.
- Spanish onions are mild, dry onions. I used two small yellow onions in place of one large Spanish onion, because that’s what was available at my grocery store.
- I couldn’t find habaneros or serranos at the first grocery store I went to, and I forgot to look at the second. I used a green pepper in the soup and left the chile out of my guacamole entirely. If you’re note a fan of spicy food, you’ll probably want to do this.
- I needed the full two hours for my beans to become tender.
- I only had whole cumin seeds, so I pulsed them in my blender. They didn’t totally become ground, but we didn’t have any problems crunching on seeds as we ate.
- I couldn’t find sherry vinegar, so I used cooking sherry.
- I used a handheld immersion blender to blend a portion of the soup right in the pot.
- It felt wasteful to throw away the tomato juice from the canned tomatoes, so I used it in place of one cup of water in my soup.
- I almost used brown rice but, for some reason, felt compelled to obey that part of the recipe. White rice was good. Brown rice would have been fine. The soup cooks for so long that the extra 20-25 minutes required to cook brown rice won’t be a big deal.
- For the guacamole, I left out the tomatoes (because I am anti-winter-fresh-tomatoes-in-Iowa), chili, and cilantro. I added two tablespoons of lime juice and a little bit more salt.
- You might want to double the guacamole because you may want to eat some with chips while you’re waiting for the soup to cook.