Saturday, January 17, 2009

The "Freezing My Ass Off" Edition

Times when "Eleven" is a good number: million dollars won in the lottery, number of seconds shaved off your time for running a mile, percentage of your current salary that is your raise.

When "Eleven" is a bad number: when it's the full count of degrees outside. In Atlanta. WHERE I LIVE. Where I moved to escape the frozen wintry tundra of my native Pennsylvania (the same PA where my ancestors sucked it up and dealt with the weather for 350 years). And more power to them, I say.

It's crazy-cold. And when you have dogs you can't just sit in the house with warm cocoa and shake your head sympathetically at the folks forced outdoors. Oh, no. You bundle up, leash the dogs, and drag their ungrateful butts outside as punishment for not learning to use modern indoor facilities. Then there's the paw-wiping, the fur-drying... it's a good thing they're so stinkin' cute.


A few years ago Atlanta had a rare snowfall with bitter, bitter cold. And nothing warms (and stays warm) like a good soup. Black beans are a relatively new arrival at my dinner table; didn't grow up with them, was rather suspect of them. But wonderful recipe reviews prompted me to give this soup a whirl, and thank goodness I did.

This recipe was the first, and maybe only, time that Sweetie called me the following afternoon with a request for leftovers for dinner that night. No need to cook, he said, we've got that wonderful soup. If that's not a ringing endorsement I don't know what is.

Best of all, it freezes beautifully! I usually double the recipe and freeze it in quart-size freezer bags. If you're short a can of beans, try adding corn after you've done the puree. The taste is terrific, but pureeing the yellow corn with the black beans just doesn't look so hot.

I like to serve this with Jiffy cornbread. For as much as I usually love to serve soup with salad, this soup is so vegetable-intensive I don't feel the need. It's high in fiber and black beans are a super source of iron. Iron is best absorbed when consumed with vitamin C, and that's where the tomatoes come in. Not familiar with chipotle chiles? They're easily found in the Hispanic foods aisle of your local supermarket, and they keep forever in the fridge.


2 canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
Cooking spray
2 cups coarsely chopped onion
1 cup chopped carrot
3/4 cup thinly sliced celery (totally optional)
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon chili powder (note: before I get started I measure all of the dried spices into a small cup. They all get added to the soup at the same time.)
2 bay leaves
2 cups water (less if you like a thicker soup)
3 (15-ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained (for some reason there is a HUGE variance in the amount of sodium in different brands of canned black beans. I've found the Kroger organic black beans to have the lowest sodium content without breaking the bank)
2 (14 1/2-ounce) cans vegetable broth or chicken broth - again, watch the sodium
2 (14.5-ounce) cans no-salt-added plum tomatoes, undrained and chopped (I like the fire-roasted Muir Glen tomatoes)

1/2 cup plain nonfat yogurt or sour cream (this tames the heat)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro (I've never used it, but I can see how it fits the theme)
8 lime wedges (oh, definitely! Just use bottled lime juice if fresh limes are pricey)

Remove 2 chiles from can; reserve remaining chiles and sauce for another use. Finely chop chiles. If you want to reduce the heat, scrape out the seeds and throw them away.

Heat a large Dutch oven coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrot, celery, and garlic; sauté 8 minutes or until onion and carrot are tender. Stir in chiles, cumin, basil, oregano, chili powder, and bay leaves; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in water, beans, broth, and tomatoes; bring to a boil.

Partially cover, reduce heat, and simmer 2 hours, stirring occasionally.

Remove from heat; discard bay leaves.

The recipe says to "Place 3 cups of soup mixture in a blender. Let stand 5 minutes; process until smooth. Return pureed mixture to pan, stirring to combine." What a MESS. A few whirls with a stick/immersion blender is much, much easier.

Ladle 1 1/4 cups soup into each of 8 bowls; top each serving with 1 tablespoon yogurt and 1 1/2 teaspoons cilantro. Serve with lime wedges.

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