My dad was raised (mostly) in Las Cruces, New Mexico. To this day, there’s pretty much no place on earth he’d rather be than the desert, as he refers to it. Because of his career, he’s spent his adult life in NY, but he makes a point to get out west every year. Since we were babies my brother and I have tagged along, and subsequently have gotten to know this part of this country quite well. Along with that, has come an affinity for Mexican food.
I’m slowly expanding my experience in Mexican cooking. Black bean soup is an perfect place to start because it’s not too challenging, yet as a dish it still hits all the traditional Mexican flavors. I’ve made the following recipe twice. The first time with canned beans, and the second with dried beans. Dried beans will create a thicker soup, and you can simply add more broth to thin it out. However, when serving this soup as leftovers, I found it had thickened even more, so I served it more as a thick bean stew over polenta. Both versions are wonderful. The second is a bit more time consuming, while the first can we whipped up in minutes for a easy weeknight meal.
Black Bean Soup with Cumin and Jalapeno adapted from Bon Appetit
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 chopped jalapeño chile with seeds (makes a spicy soup, use less to decrease heat)
2 15- to 16-ounce cans black beans, undrained
1 15-ounce can petite diced tomatoes in juice
1 cup frozen corn
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 tsp salt
Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrot, and garlic; sauté until vegetables begin to soften, about 6 minutes. Mix in cumin and 1 teaspoon jalapeño. Add beans, tomatoes with juice, corn, and broth; bring soup to boil. Reduce heat to medium, cover, and cook until carrots are tender, about 15 minutes. Transfer 3 cups of soup to blender and puree until smooth. Return puree to pot. Simmer soup until slightly thickened, about 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt, pepper, serve with grated sharp cheddar, sour cream, and a squeeze of lime.
Polenta Version: Rinse 2 cups dried beans, cover with water, and soak overnight. Drain the beans, return to pot, cover with 2 inches of water. Add in 4 whole cloves of garlic and 1 tsp salt. Simmer beans partially covered over medium low heat for an hour to an hour and a half, until tender. Drain beans and set aside. Commence recipe outlined above. While the soup is simmering, bring 3 cups of water to a boil. Once boiling, pour in 1 cup cornmeal, whisking continuously so clumps don’t form. Cook polenta over medium heat, whisking consistently for 6-8 minutes. Season with 1/4 milk, salt, and pepper. Spoon polenta into bowls, pour serve over, and garnish with cilantro, extra jalapenos, and crumbled feta (cheddar would work too). Serve immediately.