Spicy Black Bean Soup

This soup is spicy! And I love it. This spiciness is in part because of the curry powder I substituted for cumin, which I had originally planned to use but then discovered I was out of. And the whole jalapeño and cayenne pepper added to it don’t hurt, either!

Can we take a moment here to talk about my love of homemade vegetable stock? I used it in this soup. It’s certainly one of the best things you can make with scraps of herbs and veggies you would otherwise toss. It has such a rich, wonderfully complex flavor compared to most stocks you’d buy from the store, and it always turns out a little differently depending on the combination of things you throw in each time. What I do in preparation to make the stock is to accumulate veggie scraps from my cooking in freezer-safe containers. When I’ve got a good amount of them – maybe about six cups’ worth – I add them to a large pot of boiling water, reduce the heat to a gently rolling boil, and let the mixture simmer for about an hour. Then I remove it from the heat, let it cool a bit, and strain the broth out into a large glass pitcher I have (the kind you use to mix pancake batter in – perfect for this). The stock is typically a very rich, dark brown, and I’ll often dilute it with water to stretch it some more. I got six cups of vegetable stock out of this recent batch I made.

Here are some examples of things that I typically reserve for my vegetable stock:
-Broccoli and cauliflower stems
-The thick, outermost layers of an onion (with the papery skin removed)
-Tomato cores – those tough, whitish parts you would otherwise throw away
-Jalapeño stems
-The tough, woody bottom two inches of asparagus stalks
-Herb stems I wouldn’t use otherwise
-Herb bunches that are starting to go – thyme, cilantro, parsley, basil – it’s often impossible to use all of one before that happens!
-Any vegetable that is starting to go before you can use it, really!
As in most of my recipes, I used dried beans here, so if you’d like to, too, you’ll need to plan ahead and soak the beans in a bowl covered by a few inches of water overnight, or for about eight hours. Then you’ll drain and rinse the beans, add them to a pot covered by a few inches of water, and cook them at a gently rolling simmer for one hour. Drain and rinse them again when they’re done cooking, and set them aside until you’re ready to add them, along with the rest of the ingredients, to the soup to simmer some more. Or instead of dried beans, you can use canned beans – three cups of canned beans should equal the amount that this one cup of dried beans will yield once cooked.
-1 cup dried black beans
-3 cups vegetable stock
-2 tbs. grapeseed or other cooking oil
-1 medium onion, chopped
-4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
-1 jalapeño, seeds removed and diced
-1 tsp. salt
-1 tsp. black pepper
-1 tsp. chili powder
-1/2 tsp. curry powder (or cumin, if you prefer)
-1/2 tsp. paprika
-1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
-1 tbs. diced fresh cilantro, plus extra if you’d like to use it as garnish
-Other toppings you’d like to use as garnish, such as: sour cream or plain yogurt (I used the latter above!), shredded cheese, diced tomatoes, sliced almonds, sliced avocado
To a large pot over medium heat, add the grapeseed oil along with the onion, garlic, and jalapeño. Cook for about seven minutes, stirring freqently, so that the vegetables are softened but only very lightly browned. Then add the stock, beans, and the spices to the pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a gently rolling simmer and cook for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool for at least 10 minutes. Then carefully add the soup with the diced cilantro to a food processor or blender. Depending on the size of your machine’s mixing pitcher, you may need to puree it in batches (against my better judgement, I added all of it to my eight-cup food processor; I was able to mix it all in one batch, but liquid was dribbling out as it worked). Puree the soup to your desired consistency; I decided on a rougher texture, which only took about a minute, but you can go longer to get a smoother consistency. Then pour soup into bowls and serve garnished with your toppings of choice. Makes three large servings.

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