Here’s an easy black bean soup that I made for dinner recently. I wasn’t originally planning to make a bean soup, so I hadn’t soaked any beans ahead of time, but as I was getting ready to make dinner, I was struck with a craving for something with southwestern flavor. I headed to the store and picked up an avocado, chicken breast, and bell peppers. I wish I could have gotten cilantro too, but they were sold out at Marche (my local international store), so I seasoned it with fresh sage and dried oregano instead. Amazingly, I even harvested some cherry tomatoes that are still growing out on my balcony to add to the soup.
Luckily black beans cook quickly so I started them boiling first while I chopped and sauteed the vegetables for the soup in another pot. By the time the vegetables were ready, the beans were cooked too. Of course, the easier way to make it would be to plan ahead and soak your beans ahead of time. If you don’t want to take the time to cook dried beans, I think that this soup would be almost as good with canned beans.
After I got the beans cooking I sprinkled a chicken breast with a mix of chili powder, paprika, salt, and my secret ingredient: smoked salt. I love having a jar of smoked salt on hand to give a bit of smoky kick to dishes whenever they need it. Of course, if you don’t have smoked salt, regular salt will do fine too. I let the chicken rest with the seasonings while I chopped the rest of the vegetables. After that I sauteed the chili-chicken, which by the way was tasty on it’s own too, and I made it a few days later for my bento too. Then came the vegetables, and finally I put it all together to make a tasty soup. It’s great with toasted tortillas or tortilla chips. Mmmm….
Black bean soup with chicken and avocados
by Laurel S.
1 cup dried black beans, soaked overnight or 1 can black beans
1 chili-chicken breast (see below)
1 yellow onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 green bell pepper (or 2 Japanese green piman), diced
half carrot, diced
1 to 2 cloves of garlic, minced
splash of beer or tequila
1 or 2 bay leaves
fresh or dried oregano and sage
water or stock (chicken or turkey is good)
handful of cherry tomatoes or tomato, diced
handful of fresh or frozen corn kernels
1 avocado, cut into cubes
splash of lime juice or vinegar
If using dried beans, drain them and cook them until tender in a large amount of water seasoned with salt and a bay leaf. If using canned beans, drain and rinse them.
In the same saucepan or dutch oven that you used to cook the chicken, add some oil if necessary then saute the onion, bell pepper, carrot and garlic together with a big pinch of salt. When the vegetables are tender and lightly browned on the edges, add a few pinches of chili powder and paprika and a splash of tequila, beer, or other alcohol. Stir in the cooked beans and some chicken or turkey stock, the bean cooking liquid, or just plain water. Add a few bay leaves and oregano and sage to taste. Simmer for 20 minutes or so to let the flavors mingle. While the soup is cooking, shred the chicken breast and mix the avocado cubes with a squeeze of lime juice and a pinch of salt to prevent browning and add flavor.
Ladle a few cups of the beans, vegetables, and a bit of the liquid into a blender and blend until smooth. Pour the puree back into the soup and stir. It should be thick but still soupy with lots of vegetables and beans. If you want a thicker soup, puree some more vegetables and beans. When the texture is as you like it, add the rest of your ingredients: a handful of diced tomatoes, a handful of corn kernels, and the shredded chicken. Season to taste with salt (or smoked salt).
Serve the soup in a big bowl topped with a mound of avocado cubes, a dollop of sour cream, and some cilantro if you have it.
by Laurel S.
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast or leg
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon smoked salt
olive oil or butter
Mix equal about 1/4 teaspoon each chili powder, paprika, cumin, salt, and smoked salt. Season chicken all over with this mixture (you may have some spice mix leftover, but you should season the chicken quite heavily as some of the seasoning will come off in the soup). If there is skin on the chicken, remove the skin before you season it. You can save the skin and pan-fry it to make crispy chicken croutons for garnishing the soup if you want.
Heat a deep, heavy saucepan or dutch oven over medium-high heat (you can use a skillet if you are just making the chili-chicken and not the soup). Add some olive oil or butter. Brown the chicken on both sides and cook until just cooked through (It’s ok if it’s a little undercooked since it will go back in the soup later to cook some more, but if it is cooked all the way through you don’t need to worry about raw/cooked cross-contamination). Remove the chicken from the pan and allow to rest while you finish the soup.