Beans beans the magical fruit…..

Black bean soup is not typically thought of as a romantic food, and I’m making no such claims about this recipe.  Seeing that today is the eve of Valentine’s day, maybe I should have thought harder about posting something rich and chocolate, but I kind of used up those recipes previously.  So I offer this consolation – if you are all alone tomorrow you can eat this soup for lunch and several hours later the beans will keep you company by talking back!

Black Bean Soup 
loosely adapted from Top Secret Restaurant Recipes

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 cup carrots, diced
1 medium red or green pepper, diced
2 or 3 cloves garlic, minced
5 15-ounce cans black beans, drained and rinsed
4 cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock if you are vegetarian)
4 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
¼ to ½ teaspoon cayenne or ground chipotle pepper
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
salt to taste

Garnish: sour cream and tortilla chips

Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven set over medium heat.  Add onion and bell pepper and sauté until the onion is soft, about 10 to 15 minutes.

While the onions and peppers cook, puree 3 cups of the drained beans and half the chicken stock in a blender or food processor until smooth.

Add the garlic, chili powder, cumin, smoked paprika, and cayenne (or chipotle powder) to the onion and pepper mixture.  Stir for 20 seconds until spices are fragrant.  Add the pureed beans, the whole beans, the diced carrots, the remaining chicken stock, and the vinegar to the pan with the onion mixture. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about an hour (or longer if you have the time).  Add salt to taste and simmer one or two more minutes.  Garnish with sour cream and tortilla chips, if desired.

Serves about 4 or 5

Notes on the recipe 
-I’ve tried tons of black bean soup recipes.  This one rules.  
-Instead of simmering for an hour, the soup holds well in a crock pot for at least 8 hours, set on low.  The onions and peppers still need to be sauteed first though. 
-Some smoked meat like sausage or bacon would be delicious in the soup.
-Don’t leave out the vinegar – it sounds strange but it balances all the flavors perfectly.
-The smoked paprika gives this soup a deep and smoky flavor. I prefer Penzey’s brand, but the  McCormick brand from the grocery store will do. 

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