Tuesday, January 12, 2010

black bean soup + toasted cumin seed crema

black bean soup with toasted cumin cream

So, I told you about the brisket. Or, the way we talk about it, thhhuuuuh brisssssket, it’s deliciousness making our syllables stretch out melodramatically. We pulled it into tacos with slaw and pickled onions and it was a great end to a great year. But I bet I know what you’ve been wondering since then, “But no appetizer?” Well, let thie question vex your brain no longer: we had soup. (Jacob, however, got into the margaritas. Again.)

dried black beans
red onions

My friend Jocelyn made a wonderful black bean soup and she topped it with a toasted cumin seed crema and I just about died, the crema was so good. I mean, the soup was delicious but the crema was one of those toppings that was in lock-step with the soup: the richest, creamist, smokiest accent to a spicy, hearty soup. Since I’ve been slow cooker obsessed since that very day, I vowed to make a version entirely in my new BFF, and to top it with that toasted cumin seed cream. Frankly, the soup is just an excuse to get to it.

onions, beans, peppers and garlic


peppers and onion

Or it would have been if that, too, hadn’t also ended up being ridiculously good. Have I told you how awesome the slow cooker is for resucitating dried beans? There’s nothing better, period. I’ve always loved eating beans but the inconsistent and generally lackluster quality of canned beans frustrated me and the patience required to simmer something for hours on the stove eluded me. And now, with no presoaking, no simmering, just tossing cold dried beans in the slow cooker for just shy of three hours and they are perfection itself: bean nirvana. Throw in chipotle, peppers, garlic, onions and a healthy dose of cumin and you too can have this unbelievable soup from the tiniest effort.

black bean soup

One year ago: Almond Vanilla Rice Pudding
Two years ago: Crunchy Baked Pork Chops
Three years ago: Panakes, English Muffins and a Salade Lyonnaise

Black Bean Soup with Chipotle and Toasted Cumin Seed Crème Fraîche
Adapted from Bon Appetit

We finished this soup, by the way. Every last serving. We never do that. It’s magic, I tell you.

A big note about cooking times: The original recipe says 6 hours. Mine were done at 2 hours 45 minutes. Do black beans vary wildly in cooking time? Do slow cookers vary wildly in cooking time? These are all pressing questions. Check your beans at 3 hours, and holler at me in the comments if your cooking time ends up being much longer.

Yields 6 main course servings

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium-size red onions, chopped
1 medium-size red bell pepper, chopped
1 medium-size green bell pepper, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
4 teaspoons ground cumin
1 16-ounce package dried black beans
1 tablespoon chopped chipotle chiles from a can (this gives it a solid kick, dial back if you are wary)
7 cups hot water (I just used very hot tap water)
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and both bell peppers and sauté until beginning to brown, about eight minutes. Add garlic and cumin; stir one minute. Transfer mixture to 6-quart slow cooker. Add beans and chipotles, then 7 cups hot water. Cover and cook on high until beans are very tender, about 3 hours. [See note up top.]

Transfer two cups bean mixture to blender; puree until smooth. Return puree to remaining soup in slow cooker. Stir in lime juice, salt, and pepper. Adjust seasonings to taste; we found we needed more salt. Ladle soup into bowls. Spoon dollop of toasted cumin seed cream (below) over each bowl and serve.

Do ahead: This soup keeps great in the fridge, and even thickens a bit. In a good way!

Toasted Cumin Seed Crème Fraîche
Hacked from Bobby Flay

1 tablespoon whole cumin seeds
1 cup crema or crème fraîche (or make your own crema, make your own crème fraîche, or swap sour cream or yogurt, for a close-enough taste)
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Place the cumin in a small sauté pan over medium heat. Toast until lightly golden brown. Place in spice grinder or mortar and pestle and grind until coarse. Stir it into the creme and season with salt and pepper, to taste.


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