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Food Network Favorites: Black Bean Soup

From the Dave Lieberman chapter in Food Network Favorites comes this simple recipe for black bean soup, using canned beans. It's very tasty, but I'd change the presentation a bit.

Lieberman has the cook sauté finely chopped bacon and onions, then add the beans and other seasonings. After a brief simmer, the soup is apparently ready. I found, however, that even very finely minced bacon looked pale and unattractive in the soup. Along with the whole beans and pieces of tomatoes, I thought that the soup was unpleasantly chunky, so I pureed it. This made the soup much more visually appealing, since there weren't little white bits of bacon fat floating around in it. If you have an immersion blender, puréeing the soup is very easy, and you can make it as chunky or smooth as you desire. If the bacon bits don't bother you and you prefer a chunky-style soup, puréeing is unnecessary.

I've modified the recipe slightly; I found that the chili powder was a bit harsh-tasting when added to the simmering liquid, so I took a page from Indian cuisine and sautéed the chili powder with the bacon and onions. This method helps to tame the harshness of the spices and brings out the flavor. Whether you purée the soup or serve it chunky-style, it's quite thick. You may need to add additional chicken broth to achieve a smoother consistency. I've also added a few additional ideas for garnish, beyond the ones given in the book.

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Yield: 6 to 10 servings

10 slices bacon, finely chopped (if you are going to purée the soup, a rough chop is sufficient)
2 medium onions, chopped (about 2 1/2 cups)
1 Tbsp chili powder
6 cloves garlic, pressed
1 14.5-oz. can chicken broth (more may be necessary, see note above)
1 1/2 cups canned chopped tomatoes
2 Tbsp ketchup
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
4 15-oz. cans black beans, drained but not rinsed
1 bunch cilantro, leaves picked and coarsely chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Juice of 1/2 lime
For garnish: thinly sliced scallions, sour cream, cheddar cheese, cilantro leaves, lime wedges, tortilla chips, queso fresco

Put the bacon into a large heavy pot and place over medium heat. Cook until it starts to give up its fat, about 3 minutes. Add the onions and chili powder and cook, stirring, until they are fragrant and onions have softened slightly, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute. Add the 2 cans broth, tomatoes, ketchup, and Worcestershire sauce. Stir in the beans, turn heat to high, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook at a gentle simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir the cilantro into the soup. Cook about 5 more minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. If necessary, add more broth to achieve desired consistency. Purée soup, if desired, then stir in lime juice. Serve with whatever garnishes strike your fancy.



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