Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Two Black Bean Recipes: Soup and Chili

I must have had black beans on the brain the last couple of times I was grocery shopping because today in my pantry, I found not one or two, but two cans each, of three different brands of black beans. With this bounty I was inspired to conduct my own private black bean taste test and comparison.

All went well. Taste, appearance and quality of all three brands were really quite good: two were shiny black, perfectly shaped, firm on the exterior with a soft interior and tasty. One was tasty and meaty, but with cracked skin that allowed the pale creamy interior to show. Not great in a salad, but not a problem when destined for a pot of chili or a pureed soup. My final thought on the comparison was, "Black beans, you've come a long way in the last 20 years," for there was a time way back, when just the thought of canned beans would make me shudder. But, no more. At least when it comes to the black variety.

With all those cans of black beans opened, I got out two pots and got to work on two recipes: a hearty, spicy, rib sticking chili and a creamy deeply flavored soup. I tweaked the chili with a spoonful of toasty tasting --and spicy--chipotle chili in adobo sauce and the soup with the haunting flavor and meaty aroma of smoked Spanish paprika.

Because I love the dramatic contrast of color, I spooned the chili over a halved roasted sweet potato and topped it with a spoonful of cooling yogurt, pieces of avocado and plenty of chopped cilantro, my favorite herb. For the soup I got out my trusty immersion blender and pureed the heck out of it until it was almost a dark chocolate brown. Because the soup was flavored with piquillo peppers-- a small intensely flavored Spanish pepper available jarred--I diced a few and added them to a salsa of diced avocado and sweet white onion and floated it in each steaming bowl of soup.

Both recipes were a win-win as I work my way deep into writing and developing good stuff for my newest cookbook project, Fresh & Fast Vegetarian.

True, canned beans aren't truly fresh, but then neither are dried beans. Plus I'm not against what I call "pure convenience foods" like canned tomatoes or beans, or even frozen petite peas or corn kernels. Often the taste of these convenience foods--especially when it comes to the bland taste of out of season tomatoes and corn--is excellent. My final thought on the subject is that for convenience and good taste you can't beat canned black beans.

I'm glad I had all those canned beans in the pantry. Now, I've got two great recipes and it's time to restock.

Roasted Sweet Potato Topped with Quick Black Bean Chili with Chipotles

Chipotle chiles are smoked jalapenos and always come packed in a piquant adobo sauce. It is impossible to use up the entire can (they are really hot!) once opened so I usually puree the opened can and freeze small blobs (about 1 teaspoonful) on a sheet of foil. Once firm I transfer the frozen blobs to a self closing freezer bag and keep frozen for the next time. I do the same when I open a can of tomato paste, except I freeze the paste in 1 tablespoon portions.

You can skip the sweet potato portion of this recipe if you'd like and simply serve the chili from a bowl. It is quite thick and tomato-y, but I like it that way, especially topped with yogurt (or sour cream if you prefer) chopped cilantro and some avocado.

2 large sweet potatoes , scrubbed, halved lengthwise
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 cans (15 ounces each) black beans, well drained or 2 1/2 cups cooked dried black beans
1 can (15 ounces) diced tomatoes with juice or 1 1/2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes with juices
1 teaspoon coarse salt, or to taste
1 to 2 teaspoons chipotle in adobo sauce, or to taste
Plain low fat yogurt
Chopped Cilantro
Avocado slices, for garnish

1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the sweet potatoes, cut side down, in a 13 x 9 inch baking pan. Add about 1/2 cup water. Roast the potatoes until fork tender, 30 to 40 minutes depending on their size.

2. Meanwhile prepare the chili: Heat the oil and onion in a deep skillet or saute pan over medium low heat. Cook, stirring, until the onion is tender and golden, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute. Add the chili powder and cumin and cook about 20 seconds.

3. Add the black beans, tomatoes, 1/2 cup water, 1 teaspoon of the chipotle and salt; heat to a boil. Reduce heat and cook, covered, 15 minutes. Taste and add more chipotle if you'd like more heat. Simmer, uncovered, to thicken slightly, about 5 minutes.

4. Place a sweet potato half on each plate and mash the insides with a fork. Ladle the chili on top of the potato. Top each with a spoonful of yogurt and a sprinkling of chopped cilantro. Garnish the plate with avocado slices, or dice up the slices and sprinkle over the chili.

Makes 4 servings

Pureed Black Bean Soup with Piquillo Peppers and Smoked Spanish Paprika

There is nothing quite like smoked Spanish paprika. It comes in red tins and is labeled as Pimenton de la Vera. These special peppers have been smoke-dried over a wood fire and then finely ground. The result is a meaty, earthy, dark smoky flavor that I find irresistible.
Note: If you don't want to make the salsa, substitute good quality store bought salsa available in grocer's refrigerated section.

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped green pepper
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 teaspoons smoked paprika (Pimenton de la Vera)
2 teaspoons coarse salt, or to taste
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
4 cups boiling water
3 cans (15 ounces each) black beans drained or 3 3/4 cups cooked dried black beans
1 can (15 ounces) diced tomatoes with juices or 1 1/2 cups diced fresh tomatoes with juices
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup chopped jarred piquillo peppers, drained and patted dry
Salsa: (optional)
1/2 cup diced piquillo peppers
1/2 cup diced sweet white onion
1/2 cup diced avocado
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon minced cilantro
2 teaspoons minced jalapeno peppers
Pinch of coarse salt

1. Heat the olive oil in a 5 quart soup pot. Add the onion and green pepper and cook, stirring, over medium heat until golden, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute. Stir in the paprika, salt, cumin and oregano and cook, stirring 30 seconds. Add the water, black beans, tomatoes and tomato paste and heat to boiling. Cover and simmer 10 minutes. Stir in the piquillo peppers.

2. Puree the soup with an immersion blender. If you don't have an immersion (also called a hand blender) cool the soup and puree it, in batches, in a blender. Make sure to puree it long enough so that it is as smooth as possible. Return to the pot and cook the soup, covered, over low heat, 15 minutes. Taste and add salt and if you like, minced jalapeno peppers, to add a bit of heat.

3. Make the salsa: In a medium bowl combine the diced piquillo peppers, avocado, onion, olive oil, lime juice, cilantro, jalapeno and a pinch of salt.

4. Ladle the soup into bowls and float a rounded tablespoonful of the salsa in the center of each serving.

Makes 6 to 8 servings

1 comment:

  1. Marie, we loved the Black Bean Chili with Roasted Sweet Potatoes. Did 2 teaspoons of the adobo--it was quite hot, but we like it that way! I served it with warm corn tortillas which were great to sop up the juices and cut the spice a little.

    Also loved the Pumpkin and Tomato Soup, but Rob didn't think of it as dinner so I cooked some shrimp and he was happy.

    Keep these wonderful recipes coming.