Recipe of the Week: Smoky Black Bean Soup

Dang taxes! What started out as an exercise in entering "just a few more numbers" turned into an all-day affair. In addition to those couple of numbers, I also had to enter (one-by-one!) every investment transaction that occurred when we moved some of our investments around late last year. Yes, I spent waaaay too much of my time today entering individual investment transactions into TurboTax. Fun, right? Nothing better to do, right? Grrrrrr.

Anyway, I'm here now and ready to share a great recipe I came across this week. The first word "smoky" got my attention. I love food infused with a wonderful smoky flavor. As I read further I loved the idea of a soup with tons of flavor, veggies, beans, and, yes, yes, yes, smoky flavor. So this week's Recipe of the Week is Smoky Black Bean Soup from Joy the Baker.

This recipe is ultra-simple - which speaks to me today after wasting (err...spending) my day screwing around with taxes. (Grrrr again!) Here's the low-down on this recipe. Setting aside the fact that you soak the beans overnight (or a minimum of six hours at least), this recipe will take 60-90 minutes hours start to finish. And most of that is the soup's cooking time. So really, "prep" time will only take 15-20 minutes or so.

The smoky flavor in this recipe comes from two sources: liquid smoke (a product I use and love) and chipotle paste (a product I've frankly never tried). I've used the canned chipotles in adobo sauce (which are dried, smoked jalapeño peppers). The canned chipotles and the chipotle paste are different. (Actually, SeriousEats.com has a good review of the two products in a post from December 2012: "Taste Test: Olo's Chipotle Paste Vs. Canned Chipotle Chilies"). The chipotle paste is a great choice for soups.

The base of this recipe is the dried black beans that are soaked overnight. Then to start the recipe, you heat canola oil in a large stock pot over medium heat. You add your veggies - first the onions, bell pepper, and celery for a few minutes - then the garlic and jalapeños. This gets cooked for another three minutes. Then the chipotle paste and cumin get stirred in. Once that is fully combined you add the soaked, drained beans followed by the chicken broth, coffee, and bay leaf. (BTW for us vegetarians, vegetable stock works just fine. And if for some reason you don't want to use the coffee, just don't.).

Now you just cover the pot, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for about 1 hour. The beans will get very soft. Remove the pot from the heat. This soup gets blended using a hand blender/immersion blender, so you can do it right in the pot. (If you don't have one you can use a regular blender - it's just a little more of a hassle to transfer the soup back and forth). You blend the soup until it's smooth and add a little more stock or water to achieve the thinness you want. Then hit it with a little salt and pepper to taste and drop in a few dashes of liquid smoke (really it doesn't need much more than that.) Then you're ready to serve 'em up.

In her recipe Joy suggests serving the soup warm (of course) with a bunch of different toppings. Some of the ones she suggests include cooked white rice, guacamole, fried tortillas, pan-fried plantains (very interesting!), and sour cream. And may I also suggest some chopped cilantro? Put out bowls of toppings and let your diners decide what they want to add.

I will also say that this recipe will make a ton of soup. When you use six cups of stock and a pound of black beans unless you're having a party or have a super-big family, you'll have some left over. I think this would freeze pretty well. Try to freeze in smaller serving-size containers. Put leftover soup in some freezer bags, carefully flatten them out, and freeze. And be sure to LABEL THEM (ummmm...before you put the soup in).

So there it is. An excellent recipe for Smoky Black Bean Soup! Just remember to soak the beans the night before and the rest will be a breeze.

Now a word or two about Joy the Baker. As Joy says on her blog, she's "a self-taught baker, turned professional baker, turned food photographer and cookbook author". She now has two cookbooks to her credit and a "JTB" app as well. Joy is a transplant from California to one of the great food and cooking capitals of America, New Orleans. And, even better, she has found herself deep in the heart of New Orleans' French Quarter. She's been blogging since 2008 and in her words likes to cover "Food and life… and more food." You gotta like that! It's written with fun and, as you would expect, the photography's great. Please be sure to check out her beautiful blog! It's one of my favorites.

I sure hope you loved this recipe! If you want to check out ALL of my Recipes of the Week, just click on the "Recipe" category to the right or just click here: RECIPES OF THE WEEK.
And be sure to visit the great blogs I mention. You'll be happy you did!

HAVE A WONDERFUL WEEKEND!