I didn’t grow up eating black bean soup, but over my 20s it became one of my comfort foods. A warm bowl, with a tortilla and perhaps some shredded lettuce, seemed the perfect lunch when it was on the menu at the restaurant where I worked. I can think back to the many bowls of soup I ate, many varieties, but I always come back to black bean.
I gave up many of my vegetarian cookbooks in making room on my shelves for books devoted to my new ways of eating. But I kept “Bean Banquets From Boston to Bombay” by Patricia Gregory. Never judge a book by its cover has never been more apt with this cookbook. Its simple, with a few illustrations depicting some of the cultures represented in the book and no photos. When you examine the recipes you’ll find 200 that feature legumes, all vegetarian, from across the globe. Many contain no dairy, or can be adapted to leave out dairy. The book includes a the best recipe for Cuban Black Bean soup I have found.
I think the secret is the inclusion of clove and lemon juice as part of the seasoning blend that is sauteed separately and added to simmer with the beans toward the end. The book is out of print, but there are many copies available online and in used bookstores. The other recipes are very good – a personal favorite is ton that my roommate used to make: Urban Cowboy Casserole with pinto beans, veggies, southwestern spices, macaroni and cheddar cheese.
There are many great recipes online for black bean soup that you can review for ideas. At its most basic you simmer a pound of black beans in water (no salt) until soft, about an hour to an hour and a half depending on the age/moisture content of your beans. If it takes longer, so be it. Pour off some of the liquid but save it until you are done cooking – you can always some back in if the soup is too thick. Mash or blend some of the beans and cooking juices to thicken the soup but leave some beans whole. An immersion blender works great here, but even a hand potato masher will do well. Cook your veggies and seasoning in a separate pan (be sure to include a few cloves, some lemon juice, and some good veggie stock or veggie bullion). Hot peppers are a must have ingredient for me, but you can adjust the heat to your liking. Add the vegetable mixture to the beans and simmer for another 10-15 minutes. Taste and adjust the salt to your liking.