Black beans are a great low-budget staple; ask anyone from southern Mexico or Brazil. They are loaded with anthocyanins, the phytonutrients found in blue and dark red foods (such as blueberries, red grapes, and red cabbage) that are being studied for their antioxidant properties. This is a simplified version of a black bean soup from the Veracruz region of Mexico. If you want spice, use the chipotle or serrano chile, but the dish is tasty with or without the extra heat.
The soup will keep for three or four days in the refrigerator.
Yield: 4 servings
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 large garlic cloves, halved
1 cup dried black beans, washed and picked over
6 cups water
1 (14-ounce) can tomatoes, drained
2 teaspoons lightly toasted cumin seeds, ground
1 canned chipotle pepper, rinsed, or 1 serrano pepper, coarsely chopped (optional)
Heat one Tablespoon of the olive oil in a large, heavy soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat.
Add half of the onion.
Cook, stirring, until tender.
Add two of the garlic cloves.
Cook, stirring, until fragrant.
Add the beans and the water.
Discard any of the beans that float.
Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
Reduce the heat, cover and simmer 1 1/2 hours until the beans are tender.
While the beans are simmering, combine the remaining onion, drained tomatoes, cumin, chile and remaining garlic in a blender, and blend until smooth.
Heat the remaining oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat until hot enough for a drop of the puree to sizzle upon contact.
Add the puree, and cook, stirring, for five to 10 minutes until the mixture is thick and leaves a canal when you run a spoon or spatula down the center of the pan.
Stir in a cup of liquid from the beans, and simmer over medium heat for five to 10 minutes until thick and fragrant.
Scrape into the beans with a rubber spatula.
Season the beans with salt, and simmer another 15 to 30 minutes.
Taste and adjust the seasonings.
Blend the soup coarsely using an immersion blender or in batches in a blender (cover the top with a towel to avoid hot splashes) or a food processor fitted with a steel blade.
Return to the pot, and heat through, stirring.
Serve with warm corn tortillas.