I've been sick. Nasty flu morphed into head cold, which left me with little energy or desire to cook (or, rather, my "cooking" lately has consisted of heating cans of soup). Though my cold drags on, earlier this week I decided to get over my cooking hiatus and get back in the kitch. On that particular day, we were in the middle of the first (maybe only?) fall storm in Northern California: winds up to 60mph in our area and a day and a half straight of rain (being from Seattle originally, I realize this is not actually a lot of rain, but I've quickly become used to the California sunshine, so even a brief amount of moisture from the sky seems unusual!). The storm made the house feel cold and made me want something hot to simmer on the stove. So, even though it's pretty much all I'd been eating for the past couple of weeks, I decided to make soup.
This recipe is from The New California Cook, a gift from my friend Dave. I have a number of the recipes in the book flagged to make, but this is the first one I've tried so far (I'm not sure what took me so long!). It turned out really tasty, so I'll definitely be consulting this cookbook more often for ideas in the near future.
I made a few slight moderations to the original recipe - (1) I substituted veggie stock for half of the water called for, (2) I omitted the ham hock, (3) the original topping recipe was lime cream; I added half an avocado to make it an avocado lime cream. The following reflects these modifications.
Black Bean Soup with Avocado Lime Cream
Serves 6 to 8
1 pound dried black beans, picked over and rinsed
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
2 medium jalapeno chiles, seeded and finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 quart vegetable stock
1 quart water
2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
2 Tbsp. fresh cilantro
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Avocado Lime Cream:
1/2 ripe avocado
1/2 c. sour cream (I used a vegan version)
2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
1/4 tsp. salt
pinch of freshly ground white pepper
Soak beans overnight in enough cold water to cover generously (or, if you're like me and don't think this far ahead, you can do a quick soak: bring the beans to a boil in just enough water to cover, boil for 2 minutes, then cover, turn off heat, and let stand for 1 hour). Drain and set aside.
Heat oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add onions and saute until softened (about 3 minutes). Add jalapeno, garlic, bell pepper, cumin, coriander, and oregano and saute for 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
Add drained beans, stock, and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover partially, and simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until beans are tender.
Use an immersion blender to puree the soup in the pot, leaving a bit of texture (if you don't have an immersion blender, you can puree half of the soup in a standing blender, then return to pot). Reheat gently. Add lime juice, cilantro, and salt and black pepper to taste. If the soup is too thick, you can thin it with water.
To make the avocado lime cream, mash the avocado then combine with other ingredients. Whisk or use immersion blender to create a smooth consistency.
To serve, ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with avocado lime cream, avocado slices, and a dallop of salsa, if desired. Let it warm you up on a cold day!