A few weeks ago, Jay and I enjoyed a weekend in Bodega Bay with his five other former roommates from college and their significant others. After a late morning and early afternoon of local wine tasting, we ventured upon a cute little cafe (whose name now escapes me) for lunch. It was in that cafe that I made a fatal error: I did not order the black bean soup. But luckily, our good friend Matt was up for swapping bites, and that one spoonful inspired this post.
Subtly smoky from cumin and smoked paprika and very creamy thanks to pureed black beans, the soup was also lightened by the fresh, raw flavors of lime, cilantro, tomatoes, and peppers that clearly contributed more than just a colorful garnish to the bowl.
For a more veggie-packed homemade version, I pureed some spinach into the soup, which blended nicely into the pureed black beans. Although I used some of Rancho Gordo’s midnight black beans that I had cooked with leftover cilantro stems and onion earlier in the week, unsalted canned beans will work in a pinch to have your soup on the dinner table in under 30 minutes. And while your soup cooks up, why not whip up a quick and easy Mexican Carrot Slaw for a fresh side dish that also acts as a nice palate cleanser between the thick, creamy spoonfuls of soup?
Smoky Black Bean and Spinach Soup
Serves 4 as a main dish, or 6 as an appetizer or side dish
1/4 c. water
1 red onion (about 1 1/2 to 2 c.), diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. cumin
1 1/2 Tbsp. chili powder
1 tsp. smoked paprika
4 to 5 c. black beans, cooked (about 3 unsalted cans if you don’t cook them yourself)
2 c. broth (vegetable, bean, chicken, or water)
1 poblano pepper (or green bell pepper), diced
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. salt
1/2 lb. spinach (fresh, or frozen, defrosted, and drained)
1/2 c. cilantro, chopped
Greek yogurt or sour cream
1 juicy lime
1 tomato, chopped
Over medium-high heat, bring 1/4 c. water to a boil in a medium-large pot. Add onion, and cook until tender, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add garlic, cumin, chili powder, and paprika, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add beans, broth, 3/4 of the diced poblano pepper, Worcestershire sauce, black pepper, and salt.
Return to a boil, and then reduce heat, cover partially, and simmer for 15 minutes. Add spinach and 1/4 c. cilantro, and continue cooking for 5 more minutes. At this point, you can opt to blend the soup until smooth and creamy like I did, partially blend it and leave other parts chunky, or omit blending altogether. Taste, and adjust seasonings as needed.
Pour soup into bowls, and top each with a healthy dollop of Greek yogurt, a generous squeeze of lime juice, chopped tomatoes, and remaining chopped poblano peppers. Serve with Mexican Carrot Slaw or another bright and fresh salad.