Black Bean Vegetable Soup: Elegance for $1.50 a pot
Calculating up the cost of ingredients for a whole pot of soup, I came up with about $1.50. But in fact it may be 20 or 30 cents higher, depending on where you buy the vegetables, yet certainly under $2.00. The expense is actually time, about 1 hour 20 minutes, though it's not heavy time on task. Just as long you are near the kitchen, doing other things, this is easy cooking. And if you have a food processor, the vegetable dicing task is much reduced, though hand-diced vegetables are more elegant.
The pot will provide 12 servings or so, fifteen cents a bowl. Crusty toast and a slice of sharp cheddar do very well with this. Alternatively, cook lightly salted brown rice (2 parts water to 1 part rice plus a little salt, after draining and rinsing the rice; simmer covered about 40 minutes, or cook in rice cooker until it turns off). The rice can be cooked ahead, such as while the soup is simmering, and reheated in the microwave before serving the soup. For real elegance, stir a teaspoon or so of dry sherry into each bowl of soup when serving, or drizzle with a little olive oil.
Black Bean Vegetable Soup Tim
1 pound (2-1/4 cups) dry black beans
2 large bay leaves
2 large carrots
1 medium-small onion
2 medium sticks celery
1 small or 1/2 a large red bell pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons salt plus to taste
Pick over then rinse beans. Place in large heavy pot with water to 3 inches above beans. Bring to boil, reduce heat, add bay leaves, and simmer, covered, until tender, about 1 hour. Add a little water as needed.
Meanwhile, peel carrots and onion, discard leaves from celery, remove seeds from bell pepper, and dice all of them (or using food processor, cut in chunks and pulse vegetables separately until coarsely chopped). In a large frying pan, fry vegetables in oil, stirring frequently, until softened.
When black beans are becoming tender, mash them well in their cooking water with potato masher, leaving small chunks.
Stir in the fried vegetables and black pepper. Simmer until bits of beans and vegetables are very tender, 15 to 20 minutes, adding salt toward the end. After 5 minutes more of simmering, taste soup, and add salt until just slightly salty (beans and vegetables will soak up more). Serve now, or cool, store, and reheat later, checking salt before serving.
If desired, stir a little dry sherry into each bowl, or drizzle with olive oil. A large spoonful of cooked brown rice placed in the bowl before ladling in the soup makes a full lunch or supper.