“One morning in November I awoke at 6:30am and looked out on a grey landscape that would have dispirited Gustave Dore: palpably damp, lunar in its deleafed desolation, it made my bone marrow feel as though I had somehow extracted it and left it in a dish on the back step all night. It was one of those mornings when a man could face the day only after warming himself with a mug of thick coffee beaded with steam, a good thick crust of bread, and a bowl of bean soup.” Richard Gehman
One of the perks I received when our son married into a Cuban family was the delightful exposure to a new world of cooking. I will never forget spending several days in Miami, being pampered by Janell’s family, tasting fruits we had never even heard of, and smelling that same combination of South American spices everywhere we went.
Not long after that visit I learned to make black beans and rice by watching Janell, the same way she had watched her mother and grandmother make it for years. Sometimes I really crave this dish and if I close my eyes I can feel that salty air breeze blowing up from the Caribbean and I long to dance to salsa music!
A while back I tasted a black bean soup that had the same affect on me so I decided it was time to make my own version of it. I serve it topped with crumbled white corn tortilla chips and cheese along with crusty bread and salad on the side. Adding chopped vegetables, sour cream or salsa also is delicious. I use canned beans and you can substitute a package or two of taco seasoning for the spices if you are in a hurry.
Cuban Black Bean Soup
2 15 oz. cans chicken broth
5 15 oz. cans black beans with liquid
1 large green pepper
1 large red pepper
1 large onion
2 TBS. minced garlic
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 bay leaf
oregano, basil, cumin, coarse salt to taste
Chop vegetables. Place all ingredients in pot and simmer for about an hour. Remove bay leaf. Place 1/2 to 2/3 of the mixture in the food processor for about 20 seconds and stir back into the soup. Mix well, heat through, and serve. Makes 10 servings and is even better the second day. Can also be served over rice.
You will be amazed at how delicious and rich this tastes considering it has less than one gram of fat per serving! Some recipes call for sauteing the vegetables and spices in olive oil first. Yum!
(For lots of really great soup recipes, I highly recommend the Dairy Hollow House Soup and Bread book, written by Crescent Dragonwagon. She suggests putting a slice of French bread on top of each bowl of black bean soup, sprinkling it with cheese, and melting it briefly in a hot oven!)