There’s no place like home.
This past week I spent five long days in Puerto Rico. You may think that this is awesome, but I was there for work and was without my two kids and husband for that time. In addition, the travel time to get to Puerto Rico was about 12 hours (12 hours to get home as well), and the weather wasn’t even stellar (although it was definitely better than the weather in Toronto).
I missed my kids, my husband, my dog, even the hamsters. What I also missed was the ability to cook my own food. It’s one thing to go out for a dinner here, a breakfast there…but 5 days of that is tough. Especially when one is a vegetarian and Puerto Ricans love meat!
I arrived home late on Saturday night and the first thing I did on Sunday was to figure out what food I would prepare that day. I looked in the pantry to see what was there and spied some black beans. You’d think there would be lots of beans on hand in Puerto Rico, and there were, but they all had pork mixed in with them.
I decided to make a black bean soup so I turned to one of my newer cookbooks to check out the recipes. I found one that looked good in Vegetable Soups from Deborah Madison’s Kitchen. The King of Soup was heading out to watch the Super Bowl with his buddies, but before he left he was kind enough to prep all the veggies for me (what a Prince, I mean King).
I started cooking and went to the pantry to get the beans. Uh oh, only one can and the recipe called for 3. How about some chick peas instead? Sure! Why not?
Here is my soup, adapted from Deborah Madison’s recipe.
1 14 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed (original recipe calls for 3 cans of beans and no chick peas)
1 14 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
3 tbsp olive oil
1 large, sweet onion, finely diced
2 small carrots, finely diced
3 celery ribs, finely diced
1 green bell pepper, finely diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 bunch of cilantro, stems finely sliced and leaves more roughly chopped
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp smoked Spanish paprika, or more to taste
2 bay leaves
¼ tsp cayenne, or more to taste (I think it needs more)
½ cup sour cream
Juice of ½ lime, or more to taste (I used one full lime and I think I might even add more lime to the actual soup)
Pinch of salt (I added freshly ground pepper as well)
Heat the oil in a medium-sized pot (I used my cast iron Le Creuset). Sauté the diced veggies and cilantro stems over medium-high heat until the onion has softened (stir often). Add 1 tsp salt and then add the cumin, paprika, bay leaves, and cayenne. Lower the heat and cook for about 10 minutes more. Stir every couple of minutes and try not to let the spices burn.
Add 1 cup of water and cook for another 8 minutes or so.
Add the beans and the chick peas, another cup or more of water (original recipe does not call for additional water, but I felt it needed it to truly simmer), and 3 tbsp of the chopped cilantro leaves. Cook for about 20 minutes. Taste, and add salt and pepper as required.
Mix the sour cream, lime juice, the rest of the cilantro leaves and a pinch of salt in a separate bowl.
Puree the soup using a hand blender (original recipe does not call for pureeing). Serve hot with a dollop of the sour cream mixture on top. (I think toasted pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds would also be great with this soup.)
P.S. I did have the chance to eat an excellent Puerto Rican staple called Mofungo (fried plantain and garlic mash). I plan to do some research and test out my own recipe so stay tuned to this space…