Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Spicy Black Bean Soup

We were supposed to be snowed in today, but apparently the weather gods did not get the memo.  Here in New Jersey, we got about 6-8 inches of snow overnight (hard to tell exactly how much because the wind moves things around so much), but that doesn't stop us from doing much around here.  A few weeks ago, we had over 2 feet, so this is nothing compared to that!
I had planned on staying in all day with the baby, soups bubbling away on the stovetop, curling up by the fireplace.  Well, that didn't quite happen.  When you know the roads are clear and you have things to do, it's hard to justify staying in all day and cuddling!  I was still, however, able to make a pot of soup that will be PERFECT for dinner tonight.

This is a very simple, straightforward soup, and the flavors in it are pretty classic.  You basically fry up a piece of ham for garnish, and put it to the side.  Cook up some aromatics, add some beans and water, let it simmer for awhile...and that's all, folks!  Very clean, Mexican-type flavors, but oh what a delicious soup it makes.  This would even be good with a dollop of sour cream on top, a cool creamy contrast to the dark, pureed beans and grassy green cilantro.  A wonderful, effortless dish, perfect for a cold winter's night.  Enjoy the deliciousness!

Spicy Black Bean Soup
serves 4
8 ounces cooked ham in one 1/2-inch thick slice
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 jalapeno, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon oregano
3 cans (15 1/2 ounces each) black beans, drained and rinsed
4 cups water
1/2 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves

In a large soup pot, cook ham over medium-high heat until browned on both sides, about 5 minutes.  Transfer to a cutting board.
Add oil to the pot.  Cook onion and garlic, stirring frequently, until lightly browned, about 3 minutes.  Add jalapeno, cumin, and oregano, and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes.  Add beans and water and simmer for 10 minutes.
Remove from heat and stir in cilantro leaves.  Using an immersion blender, puree mixture until smooth.  If soup is too thick, add more water to the pot.  If soup is too thin, continue simmering on the stove until desired consistency is achieved.  .
To serve, top with cubes of ham, cilantro, shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, salsa, etc.
Adapted from Martha Stewart and her book Everyday Food: Fresh Flavor Fast

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