Friday, September 26, 2008


This may be the easiest recipe in my entire repertoire, and is one of the few minimal-ingredient, pantry-food-based recipes I’ve tried that actually taste good. Could anything be simpler? Black beans are blended with broth to make soup, with salsa ingeniously serving as a stealthy, handy one-stop seasoning agent, assisted by cumin and green onions. It was a staple of my menus when I lived alone—not only because it was so quick and easy and relatively healthy, but also, admittedly, because it gave me an excuse to eat corn chips, or in more indulgent moments, nachos, on the side. I was initially surprised that I hadn’t already posted it here, until I remembered that A doesn’t really like beans and since moving in with him I only make it for myself when he’s out of town. But I really wanted it last week—I had a vision of how good it would be with quesadillas dipped into it—and so I introduced A to it, and he ate it willingly. His verdict was “pretty good,” which spoken by A about a bean soup really means something.

Of course I’m going to tell you that this recipe will be better if you use homemade broth. But back in the days before I became a broth snob, I recall using canned low-sodium broth and it was fine. Naturally, choose a high-quality salsa you really like the flavor/spiciness level of—I, as if you had to ask, use Trader Joe’s Salsa Especial (which isn’t very chunky, so I usually use slightly less broth to keep the soup from getting too thin—maybe 1⅓ cup?). I haven’t experimented with any add-ons, but there are all sorts of things you could mix into this soup or sprinkle on top if you feel like fancying things up—cilantro, jalapeno, shredded cheese, sour cream, red onion, even chicken I suppose. You might also want to add a sprinkling of salt if you’re using low- or no-sodium broth (my homemade stuff is salt-free, and I found that a dash of salt really perked up the finished soup). Corn chips or quesadillas—or, heck, nachos—make a nice accompaniment.

2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1½ cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 cup chunky salsa
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onion

1. In a food processor or blender, combine beans, broth, salsa, and cumin. Blend until fairly smooth.

2. Heat the bean mixture in a medium saucepan over medium heat until thoroughly warm. Ladle soup into bowls and top each serving with ½ teaspoon green onion and 1 tablespoon sour cream (if desired).

Serves: 4
Time: 20 minutes
Leftover potential: As with all soups, high. The flavor seems to improve with a few days in the fridge, and you can easily freeze if you’d like to—though given how quick it is to make and how few fresh ingredients are involved, that doesn’t seem necessary.

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