I don’t think it’s any big surprise for me to say that soup is my favorite comfort food. I’m totally okay with it sliding to the wayside during the summer, where light fare liberally enhanced with fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, and herbs rules the day. But once the chill hits, as it has this week (although the air conditioning is still running at work, yippee … must buy a pashmina this year), hearty soups — hot and full of deep flavors and textures — are what I crave.
Bean soups are a particular favorite. Filling and healthy, they create a full-bodied soup that easily switches up between bumpy (in a good way – whole, spoonable, tender beans mixed in with savory chopped vegetables) and creamy — sans dairy — when run through a blender.
I have a special affinity for the black bean — it’s been a favorite all of my adult life. Chiles rellenos stuffed with cheesy, spicy black beans … omg. And soup. I love how black beans take so well to different flavor treatments. Cuban black bean soup with lime and cumin and cilantro — a classic.
And now sriracha black bean soup. That addictive fiery condiment is the perfect addition to black bean soup, tamed ever so slightly with the smoky flavors of chili and a light autumn sweetness from maple syrup.
Oh, and on a completely unrelated soup note, I came across this on Facebook this morning: America’s Mood Map Test.
I was bowled over to learn I should live in New Mexico. I’ve never been there, but I’ve driven a lot of Arizona. I fell head over heels in love with the Grand Canyon, and the intriguing, consistently slanted slates of strata that stretches across Arizona and Utah. And me and Southwestern cuisine are already mejores amigas. But I think I need green, green hills and brisk fall weather to maintain my inner calm (I could definitely dig a winter home in New Mexico, though).
If you want to take the test, it’s a 60-second diversion. I browsed the comments on the article and no one said they were matched with Ohio. Not sure what to think about that — surely we Ohioans are not so atypical! (Although the teeming-crowd-disliking, curmudgeonette in me thinks it’s sort of okay. I kinda want to keep the amazingness of my hometown all to myself.)
Just for fun, in what state do you live, and where are you “supposed to” live?
Anyway. Back to sriracha black bean soup.
If you don’t have all of the specific ingredients in this list, don’t fret. These are staples in my household, but feel free to substitute what you have. Soup loves improvisation and bends easily to become your own. It’s cold and rainy today here in the Ohio Valley — if there was ever a day for the spicy heat of sriracha black bean soup, this is it.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 4 slices regular or 2 slices thick uncooked bacon (or vegetarian substitute), finely chopped
- 1 cup diced onion (about 1/2 of a large onion)
- 1 teaspoon pimenton (smoked paprika)
- 1/2 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
- 2 tomatoes, peeled seeded and finely chopped, or one 15 oz. can crushed tomatoes
- 3 cans black beans (15 1/2-ounce), drained but not rinsed
- 2 tablespoons of your favorite BBQ sauce
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce (or vegetarian substitute - or just leave out)
- 1 teaspoon to 2 tablespoons sriracha sauce (lean towards less for a lightly spicy flavor - 1 tablespoon is the perfect level of heat for me)
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro (reserve a few pinches for garnish)
- 2 tablespoons sour cream, for garnish
- 1 cup white cheddar or pepper jack cheese, for garnish
- Heat olive oil in a large stock pot or dutch oven over medium heat. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the bacon pieces. Cook until the bacon renders its fat, then stir in the onions and saute until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.
- Scoot the bacon and onions to the side, and tilt the pot slightly to let the fat pool to one side. Add the paprika, chili powders, and salt to the fat and stir to form a paste. Add the garlic, and stir everything together for 30 seconds, coating the vegetables and bacon with the spice mix. The garlic should be fragrant.
- Add the stock, and increase the heat to medium-high. Add the tomatoes, black beans, BBQ sauce, maple syrup, Worcestershire sauce, and sriracha sauce and stir to combine combine thoroughly. When the soup reaches a gentle boil, reduce heat to simmer-low, and partially cover with a lid. Cook for 15 minutes. Taste, and add more salt by the pinches as necessary, plus a few grinds of black pepper. Stir in most of the cilantro (remember to leave some for garnish).
- For a "beany" soup, leave as is. For a thicker, smoother soup, run an immersion blender through the pot (or hand-mash with a potato masher) to break up a portion of the beans, leaving about half of the beans intact.
- Serve in bowls with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of cilantro and cheese.