Saved by black bean soupPosted: October 26, 2010
It’s hard to stomach but winter is almost here. The cold, the shovelling, being indoors all the time and the lack of sun drive me nuts. Sharing warm, hearty food with friends at this time of year helps to forget the coming threat of snow. And there’s something about the colder months that seems to make dinner parties special.
To stretch our legs I decided we needed a theme. After going through some cookbooks I thought a Cuban inspired meal would be a perfect way to try something new and remind us of hotter days. I discovered a recipe from Jacques Pépin for black bean soup that set the tone for the menu.
We started with fresh guacamole and tortilla chips. It was one of the better batches I’ve made all year and probably the last I’ll have until next summer. As we ate I thought of the beach and mentally held my middle finger up to December.
Next came the soup. Full of heat, textures and lots of flavour it was easily one of my favourite courses of the night. And it’s a dark soup – like mud – but glorious. What sets it even further apart from other soups are the condiments. Once served, you pile chopped banana, hard-boiled egg, raw onion, cilantro, red wine vinegar and olive oil on top. And don’t forget to add plenty of tabasco!
Our main course was a butterflied roast chicken with a Latin inspired spice rub. We served it with a salad of lettuce, tomatoes, Poblanos peppers and olives. After roasting I reduced the pan juices for a simple dressing. The labour-intensive part was the side dish, Papas Rellenas. Basically, these are mashed potato balls stuffed with ground beef, onions, tomatoes, Poblanos peppers and olives. I learned they’re a standard Cuban accompaniment to a meal, and after all the effort, worth it. We ended with ice cream and mango slices covered with a Tequila cream liqueur.
Everyone enjoyed the meal as far as I can tell. The black bean soup was a big hit and I’ll credit it, and Jacques Pépin no less, with inspiring the evening. If you hate winter you have to find things to keep you happy. Preparing a dinner party can be a great way to spend the day in the kitchen and an evening with friends at the table. It’s funny that a cookbook by a classically trained French chef showed a Canadian how to make Cuban soup. Do we even know if these dishes have ever been prepared in Cuba? Nope. And does it matter? Of course not.
Black bean soup
- 1 lb. dried black beans
- 2 potatoes (peeled and diced)
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp dried thyme
- 1 cup onions (chopped)
- 2 tomatoes (diced)
- 2 quarts water
- 1 ½ quarts chicken stock
- 1 small bunch cilantro
- ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 ½ tbsp red-wine vinegar
- 1 ½ tsp Tabasco sauce
- 2 garlic cloves (minced)
- 1 onion (finely chopped and rinsed in water)
- 2 hard-boiled eggs (chopped)
- 2 small bananas (chopped)
- Extra-virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar to drizzle on top
- Remove the debris or damaged beans and wash the remaining in cold water. Drain and put beans in saucepan and cover with cold soak to soak for 1 hour.
- Prepare other ingredients
- Drain the beans again and put them in a large pot. Mix in the potatoes, salt, thyme, onion and tomatoes. Mix in the water and chicken stock.
- Cut the cilantro leaves from the stems, chop the stems coarsely, and add them to the soup.
- Bring the soup to a boil, reduce to low, and cook uncovered for about 2 hours.
- Pay attention towards the end of cooking and scrape the bottom of the pot so the soup doesn’t stick.
- When done puree one third of the solids and then return to the soup. You can add some water if it’s too thick.
- Add the olive oil, red-wine vinegar, Tabasco and garlic and stir to incorporate. Bring to boil before serving.
- Once ladled out, drizzle on extra red-wine vinegar, olive oil and add the garnishes. Serve while very hot.