Friday, December 3, 2010

Black Bean Soup with Jalapeño Peppers... and Orange

I love Mexican food... and I love soups... so when you add the two together, that's a good bit of love. But sometimes too much love can be a little overwhelming... even for a simple little soup.

This particular soup is a great vegetarian black bean soup that I've made for several years now... tweaking it a bit here and there each time out. A little more cumin. A tad more jalapeño. Some fresh tortillas added in to make it heartier. A dash of salsa. And the latest addition... some fresh orange juice and zest!

But lest you think the love has gone too far, this little bit of attention was well received.

I picked up the idea for this citrus addition when visiting a friend a few months back. She was heating up some canned black beans for dinner, enhancing their flavor with a little of this and a little of that. They were all the "this and thats" that you'd kind of expect... until she grabbed a fresh orange. She mentioned that she liked to add citrus into much of what she cooked (primarily vegetarian), believing that the lemon, lime, or orange flavors did loads to subtly pop flavors while also adding to the overall nutritional value of whatever she was making. Working over her pot, she dropped in a little zest and squeezed in a little juice. Surprisingly, it wasn't all that much but it was just enough to noticeably brighten the flavor of the beans without being an obvious presence.

It does that same trick in this soup.

It offers a subtle, fresh and bright note that truly enhances the overall flavor of the soup, melding well with the bolder notes of the jalapeño pepper and salsa, without saying "orange."

I think this addition finally does it for this little soup. It's no longer The Little Soup That Could, happily chugging along with each and every tweak. A little bit of love (squeezed out of an orange no less) was all it needed. Now I think I'll leave it alone... I think.

Black Bean Soup with Jalapeño Peppers... and Orange
serves 4
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, diced (about 1 cup)
2 carrots, diced (about 3/4 cup)
1 rib celery, diced (about 1/2 cup)
2 jalapeños, finely diced (about 1/3 cup)
1 medium red bell pepper, diced (about 3/4 cup)
2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 to 2 teaspoons)
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
3 15-ounce cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 32-ounce carton vegetable stock
1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes, with juice
1/2 teaspoon orange zest
1/4 cup fresh orange juice (from one small orange)
3 white corn tortillas, cut in half and then into thin strips
1/2 cup salsa ("medium" heat)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1. Heat olive oil in a large stock pot over medium high heat. Add onions, carrot, celery, jalapeño, and red pepper. Sauté for about 3 minutes, until veggies soften. Add garlic, cumin, and coriander. Mix well and continue to sauté for another 1 to 2 minutes.

2. Add rinsed and drained beans to pot, along with salt and pepper. Mix well.

3. Add vegetable stock and tomatoes to pot. Bring stock to a low simmer, then add in strips of tortilla, orange zest, and orange juice. Continue to simmer soup (don't let it boil) for about 20 minutes. (The tortilla strips should dissolve into stock during this time.) After 20 minutes, add in salsa and chopped cilantro. Heat through for about a minute. Serve immediately.

Suggestion: Ladle soup into bowls and top with a little dollop of sour cream, creme fraiche, or plain yogurt (if you'd like), along with a sprinkle of chopped cilantro and some shredded cheese (I used a four-cheese Mexican blend).

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