Lent Soup: Spicy Black Bean

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Remember when a 45-degree day felt like summer? Now, even if the temp climbs to 50 F, I still feel a chill. Someone once said to me that a Chicago spring is more like a battle between winter and summer. Thus far, winter is dominating and is getting me down. To combat weather-related blues, I find a spicy soup the perfect weapon, particularly that of the black bean variety.

For Lent, choosing to eat beans instead of meat is a good way to be in solidarity with the world’s poor, who don’t have the luxury of being able to afford meat for dinner every night of the week. It’s also a good way to save money, be good to the earth, and be good to your body. They’re protein rich, full of fiber, and low in fat, all very good things. I sometimes laugh at the term “superfood” (used to describe things like kale and blueberries) because I find most food super. The bean is considered a “superfood,” ironic and yet appropriate, as it is also a humble food, inexpensive and the daily bread for many in the developing world.

Catholic Relief Services suggests eating a simple, meatless meal and using the savings to donate to their efforts to end world hunger.

Spicy Black Bean Soup
Adapted from Moosewood Restaurant: Cooks at Home

Ingredients:
2 15-oz cans black beans, in their liquid (you can also use approx. 3 ½ cups of cooked dry beans)
1 15-oz can diced tomatoes in their juice (I use fire-roasted for extra flavor)
3-4 whole chipotle peppers (seeded if you’re sensitive/averse to spicy food)
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp canola oil
1-2 teaspoon cumin
1/3 cup water
¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
Special equipment: hand blender or blender

In a large soup pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook for about 5 minutes, or until they begin to look translucent, turning the heat down if they begin to brown. Add the garlic, stir, and cook for 1 minute. 

Add the cumin and stir to coat the onions and garlic. Stir in the chipotle peppers and tomatoes. After a minute or two, add the water and reduce the heat to low, allowing the mixture to cook for about 5 minutes, covered.

Add the beans in their liquid and stir. Cover and cook for 5-10 more minutes. I think the longer you let a soup cook, the more you’re allowing the flavors to develop.

When ready to serve, turn off the heat, add the cilantro, and puree with a hand blender until the soup is a texture you like. I prefer to puree the whole soup because my hand blender isn’t particularly strong and leaves some texture. You can also pour half the soup into a blender and then add the puree back to the rest of the soup. Add water if it’s too thick.

Garnish with a spoonful of yogurt, sour cream, cheddar, queso fresco, green onions, more cilantro, etc. The choice is yours.

This soup is excellent served with Sopa Paraguaya (a cheese cornbread, not a soup as the name suggests):

Reflection: “We lift our prayers to you, God of Love, on behalf of our brothers and sisters in need. As we learn about their struggles, our almsgiving comes to their aid; our fasting unites us in their hunger. You call us to be disciples for all nations. Bless us this Lenten season. Amen.” -CRS’s Operation Rice Bowl prayer