Autumn Eating Part 2: Soups

by CSWSmovie

I’m not one for repetitive meals – in fact, I usually hate having the same thing over and over again-  but last week was filled with a comforting rhythm of having the same things to eat:  dal and rice, lots of apples, plenty of coffee, and a steady stream of oatmeal muffins. So when the weekend came, it was only inevitable that I veered to the indulgent:  brunch at Yuca Cafe, a long overdue trip to Noodle Pudding, and finally, a trip to the movies, that required a bag of popcorn and a bigger-than-necessary handful of Skittles. (Go see Leaves of Grass if you can – Richard Dreyfuss’s scene makes it worth the ticket price.)

But tomorrow is Monday and the start of another week, and I’m back in need of more spare, more comforting meals. Tonight’s dinner of black bean pumpkin soup and corn on the cob fit the bill, but clearly, based on this fresh corn and canned pumpkin combo, I haven’t decided what season I want to be in yet. But if we’re leaning towards fall, it’s time for a serious conversation about soup.

In case you weren’t already aware, or in case you needed some convincing, soup, like dessert, is a fantastic category of food. Really! It’s comforting, it’s easy, it’s healthy, it’s infinitely adaptable. With the right recipe in hand, it is delicious. If I didn’t love bread so much, I could happily subside on stews and soups alone during the colder seasons.

When it came time to think about my favorite fall soups, ones that I felt I needed to share on this blog, it took all of ten seconds to decide. This black bean version, and the potato-kale-chorizo one are deeply entrenched in my repertoire. They are soups I return to during all sorts of times and occasions. Put more simply, to know my cooking is to know these two recipes.

A story: after dating Terence for not a small amount of time, there came a point where I realized I should have his immediate family (his mom and two sisters) over for a meal at our then-new apartment. Not a big deal, but I was freaked out by the following two factors: a) they didn’t really like vegetables and b) they had zero tolerance for spicy food. If you know me at all, you’d understand why I was, to put it mildly, concerned. Some people’s weakness is a candy store; mine is the produce aisle at Westside Market. I have nine bottles of hot sauce in my fridge. So it took me more than a little while to come up with a menu. I wanted to make something that reflected how I cooked and ate, so I settled on a vegetarian lasagna, this black bean soup, and kept my fingers crossed.

Happily, they loved it. So much so that two years later, his mother still requests these items, particularly the soup, each and every time I see her. I apologize if this sounds boastful, but she even said it made her want to eat more vegetables. I was riding high on that compliment for a day or two, let me tell you.

When Terence’s grandfather (his mother’s father) passed away, his enormous family came together to cook for the funeral. It was a somber, sad, grey and rainy day in April, and my contribution was The Soup, which I made largely with his mother in mind. Leaving it at one of the relative’s apartments while we attended the service, I forgot about its whereabouts until we ate after. I watched tray after tray of food come out of the kitchen, but my pot never emerged.  I became concerned, then a little distraught, when the long-winded meal came to a close, his mother never having the soup I had especially made for her.

Weeks later, it was revealed that several of Terence’s uncles had discovered the soup at the apartment, before it was transported to the church. Standing up, eating straight from the pot with spoons, they devoured the giant quantity before it had a chance to see the light of day. I told you there was a good reason I wanted to pass this recipe along.

The other soup is a little more showy: crunchy croutons bobbing in the hot broth, plus the use of smoky Spanish paprika (a spice I’ve come to view as a staple in my pantry). The recipe calls for chorizo, but I actually prefer it with spicy Italian sausage. This is Terence’s favorite soup that I make, and one of my favorites too. It’s a crowd-pleaser, and oh-so satisfying on a cold day.

I’m going to end this long entry, before I hype these up too much more. I hope you forgive my enthusiasm. But what I hope more is that you’re gathering your things to head to the grocery store – where else could you be going? – while I’ll stay here, finding yet another apple to consume. I’m not going to fight it; you can’t help what you love to eat.

Black Bean and Pumpkin Soup

Adapted quite a bit from Gourmet, 1996

  • three 15 1/2 ounce cans black beans (about 4 1/2 cups), rinsed and drained
  • 1 15 oz can of diced or crushed tomatoes
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons ground cumin (about a small palmful)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons of canola or olive oil
  • 4 cups broth (vegetable, chicken or beef would work)
  • a 16-ounce can pumpkin pureé (about 1 1/2 cups)

Garnish:

  • Optional Garnish: sour cream and coarsely chopped lightly toasted pumpkin seeds. Drizzle sherry vinegar or some lemon juice at the end if you’d like.

In a food processor or blender, pureé beans and tomatoes. In a soup pot, add your cooking oil and sautee onion until starting to brown, then add garlic, cumin, salt, and pepper over moderate heat, stirring. Stir in bean pureé. (NOTE: if you have an immersion blender, add your drained beans and tomato directly to the pot, and blend in pot with the onions until pureed.) Stir in broth and pumpkin until combined and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, 15-20 minutes, or until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Taste, and season soup with salt and pepper as needed.

Serve soup warm, garnished with sour cream and toasted pumpkin seeds if you would like. The soup is splendid without any garnish too. Makes terrific leftovers.

Potato, Kale and Chorizo Soup with Croutons

  • 5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 large onion, chopped (about 2 cups)
  • 8 ounces fully cooked smoked Spanish chorizo or spicy Italian sausage
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1 1/2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 8 cups low-salt chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 pounds kale, stemmed, torn into small pieces (about 16 cups lightly packed)
  • 3 cups 1/2-inch cubes rustic bread
  • Heat 3 tablespoons oil in large pot over medium heat. Add onion; cook until translucent, about 8 minutes. Add chorizo and paprika; stir 1 minute. (NOTE: if using uncooked sausage, cook broken up sausage bits until brown, then add onion.) Add potatoes and broth. Increase heat and bring to boil. Add kale; stir until wilted and soup returns to boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer 1 hour, stirring occasionally. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Refrigerate uncovered until cool, then cover and chill. Rewarm before serving.

    Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add bread cubes and sauté until golden, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle croutons with salt and pepper. 

    Divide soup among bowls. Top with croutons and serve.

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