Monday, November 9, 2009

My favorite soups (1 of 2)

It was cold today, finally, so to honor that I'm making soup.

I love thick soup. I love soup that you put in the fridge as a liquid and come back to find it in a solid state. My favorite way to achieve that is pureeing beans. I have two favorite bean-based soups: one is chickpea, the other is black bean.

Today I'm making the black bean one because celery was on sale this morning. I got the recipe from my favorite en masse recipe website recipezaar. It's a Panera Bread Co. copycat recipe. We don't have Paneras down here, so I can't say how close it is to the original, but it is really really delicious.

Here's the recipe as it appears on recipezaar.


Here's how I make it:

  • 1-2 onion, coarsely chopped
  • Tiny bit of vegetable oil (1-3 teaspoons)
  • 2-5 garlic cloves, hacked at a little
  • 2 celery ribs, like I ever have celery in my house, also hacked at
  • 1 large red bell pepper, chopped into at least 12 pieces
  • tomatoes, carrots, petit pois, anything else vegetable-like in the house
  • 2 small chicken bouillon cubes, I prefer the veggie ones but my store quit carrying them
  • 1-1 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 2 (15 ounce) cans black beans, undrained
  • salt
  • cumin
  • healthy dash of lemon out of the bottle, or the juice of half a lemon, if I don't forget it
  • spoonful of cornstarch
  • food processor or, better yet, emersion blender

This recipe is really versatile. I usually don't have celery or red peppers on hand, but it doesn't matter. As long as you've got an onion, some garlic, cumin, salt, and beans you're off to a good start.

1. First thing's first. Get chopping. Cut up anything that looks like you can (onion, garlic, pepper, carrots, tomatoes, celery, etc), but don't worry about mincing or finely chopping anything.

2. About halfway through the chopping, heat up a splash of oil in a (preferably nonstick) pan. When you're done chopping, add the veggies to the heated oil and let them get some color.

3. Move things around in there every so often.

4. After the onions and garlic look goldenish add about 1.5 cups of water and the bouillon cubes and let it come to a boil. Turn the stove down and let this simmer for about 10 - 15 minutes, until the vegetables are soft.

5. Add 1.5 cans of beans, a good pinch of salt and a couple of heavy shakes of cumin. Stir all of this together and then get out the emersion blender.

6. Liquify your heart out.

7. Now it's time to add the cornstarch. But first, a word about cornstarch. Think back to grade school, do you remember making paste? Yes? Ah, that white powdery stuff was cornstarch. It turns into a non-Newtonian fluid (very exciting) when you mix it with water. And it forms nasty clumps when you mix it with hot water! Let me tell you, it is tremendously unpleasant to bite into a clump of glue. You should sift your cornstarch into a small dish and mix it with cold water. Make sure there aren't any big clumps, then pour it into the soup. Blend in with the emersion blender.

8. Add a splash of lemon juice (which I almost always forget and it's still great) and do a taste test. Need anything else? Salt maybe? Black pepper? I don't know, it's up to you. Let it cook for a few minutes longer so that it will thicken up from the cornstarch.

9. Go to town on that stuff. It's great!

It's particularly good with a slice of toasted bread and a drizzle of yogurt.

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