Counter to what you may believe about this quasi-southern city, DC has some bitter winter weather up its sleeve. This is shaping up to be the first really cold week here in Washington, and like clockwork, I’ve got swollen glands, a stuffy nose, and a feeling I still haven’t seen the worst of this bug. Thankfully, I also have my slow cooker on the counter, a big jar of black beans, my trusty slow-cooker, and a hankering for something thick, hot, and comforting. Black bean soup is on the menu.
Apparently, I’m on a southwestern kick. Last week, we made Texas chili so good, I went to twitter asking why none of you had told me about it earlier. This week, we’re recovering from the beef-fest with a fully vegetarian black bean soup that’s no less flavorful, enlisting chipotle chilies, adobo sauce, cocoa, and molasses. It’s easy to make – very easy – and quite delicious.
Ok, but let’s be honest. What really puts this soup over the top is the chipotles in adobo sauce, which in my case was homemade by my friend Cathy, aka Mrs. Wheelbarrow. She smoked her own chipotles; she made her own adobo sauce; and to a very lucky few, she bequeathed a jar of the results. I tell you, the stuff is delicious. Fancy homemade version aside, the canned ones are delicious, too. They’re what make this soup sing.
Soups in the slow-cooker: the epitome of simple. But I’ll admit it here – our slow-cooker lives in a cabinet, woefully underutilized. I put it to work on this soup after hearing that my friends Phoebe and Cara, over at Big Girls, Small Kitchen, were hosting Slow-Cooker Week on their blog. Click over, and you’ll see that they’ve got recipes for everything from slow-cooked beef stew to all-day hummus made in the slow-cooker. Check it out.
Inspired to dust off my own slow-cooker, I knew immediately that I’d be making black bean soup. Because you’re cooking the beans for several hours, you don’t need to soak them first. You just put up the soup in the morning, and by the time you get home from work, your beans and vegetables have transformed into something silky, soft, and flavorful: the total package.
Still, I should note that you definitely can make this soup equally well on the stove. You’ll need to soak the beans first, so that they cook all the way through, but other than that, it’s straightforward. I’ve included instructions below.
Several folks have emailed over the past couple of weeks about needing more work-friendly recipes. Ask, and you shall receive: this soup practically makes itself. We’ve been eating the leftovers all week, no extra cooking needed.
Did I mention there’s something in it for you? Cara and Phoebe and Kelsey the Naptime Chef, masterminds of the Slow-Cooker Challenge, teamed up with a few great folks at OXO, DeLonghi, and Breville to snag some great prizes for folks who follow along with the slow-cooker festivities. You can win fancy, high-end slow-cookers (much nicer than mine!) here and here. Follow along on both of their sites for slow-cooker recipes galore, OXO prizes, and more.
Adobo Black Bean Soup
adapted heavily from Whole Foods Market
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large red onion, diced (about 3 cups)
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped, divided
3 cloves garlic, sliced
3 tablespoons fresh oregano (or 1 tablespoon dried oregano)
1 1/2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 chipotles in adobo, chopped
1/4 cup adobo sauce (may need two cans to yield this much sauce)
1 bay leaf
2 cups black beans
12ish cups water
1 1/2 tablespoons cocoa
1 tablespoon molasses
3/4 cup orange juice
1 teaspoon salt (to taste)
1/2 cup cilantro
4 scallions, thinly sliced
2 avocados, halved and thinly sliced
1/4 cup yogurt or sour cream
To make the soup in the slow-cooker the easiest way:
Put everything through the water in the slow-cooker, turn it on, and leave it alone. When you get home, stir the cocoa with a spoonful of soup until smooth, then add it, the OJ, and salt – to taste – into the soup. By the time you’ve got the troops around the table, soup will be ready. Serve with scallion, avocado, yogurt, and tortilla chips. Speedy, eh?
The hybrid method: maximum flavor, but makes itself while you work:
Here’s how I made the soup.
Plug in the slow-cooker and turn it to high. While it heats, saute the onion, green pepper, and half the red pepper in olive oil in a small saucepan until translucent. Add the spices, garlic, chipotle, and adobo sauce, stir to combine them with the aromatics, and cook a couple minutes more. Pour 2 cups of water into the saucepan, scrape up the bits from the bottom of the pan, and pour the whole mixture into the slow cooker. Add the beans, the bay leaf, and enough water to cover the beans by a few inches (should be about 10 more cups). By now, the slow-cooker should be plenty hot. (Doesn’t matter if it isn’t, though.) Turn slow-cooker to low, and let cook at least 5 hours and as many as 8 hours (yes, I tested it to make sure). You’re not adding salt at this point: when cooking beans, always add salt at the end. The beans will stay whole, and you’ll be able to control the saltiness of the soup better that way.
When you get home – or, about 10 minutes before serving the soup – put the cocoa in a small bowl, and add a couple spoonfuls of the soup broth. Stir together until smooth, then add to the soup along with the orange juice and cilantro. Next, you’ll salt the soup. Start with half a teaspoon. Stir it in – thoroughly – and then taste the broth. (Not the beans: they won’t have taken on the salt yet.) If the broth needs more salt, add another half teaspoon.
Serve soup with sliced scallions, sliced avocado, yogurt, and tortilla chips.
To make soup on the stove:
First, soak the beans for 6-8 hours. Sorry, you gotta.
Now: same instructions as above, but instead of sauteing the onions in a small saucepan, do it in a soup pot. When you’re ready, add all the remaining ingredients straight into that pot. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 1.5 hours, until beans are soft. Add cocoa, orange juice, and cilantro 5-10 minutes before serving.