Monday, April 4, 2016

When Is It Worth Spending a Lot of Time in the Kitchen?

Vegetarian Black Bean Soup
Some people would say “Never,” but I find cooking relaxing—unless it’s not going well. 

Recently I spent more hours than I care to admit making three large chocolate desserts for a bean-to-bar chocolate tasting (more on that in a future post).  It was worth it to me for many reasons, but mostly because I felt competent doing something most people I know would be afraid to try.  My circle of friends does not include professional chefs, although a close friend used to work in a test kitchen.

I make pizza just about every Saturday night because three teenagers are at the table and congenially demand it.  It’s worth the effort because they love pizza – and so do I.  There are no shortcuts when making real pizza dough, but hey…how often do teenagers willingly talk to you while waiting for the next pizza to come out of the oven?

Yesterday I was moved to make Black Bean Soup because my husband was laid low with allergies.  He has fond memories of his mother’s version of this soup, so I decided to cheer him up with some.  It’s not difficult, but it takes a few hours if you use dried black beans.  And that’s without soaking them overnight first—a process I have determined is not necessary.  Dried black beans taste better than canned, and they’re economical.  One pound of dried beans makes enough soup for 10-12 people.

Not only was this soup cheap to make but also it worked as an allergy cure.  Today he’s out of his sickbed and off playing softball. 
Vegetarian Black Bean Soup – serves 10-12 
2 tablespoons olive or canola oil 
2 large onions, roughly chopped 
2 sticks celery, thinly sliced 
1 teaspoon chopped garlic 
1 tablespoon flour 
2 teaspoons salt 
1 bay leaf 
1 teaspoon chili powder 
1/4 teaspoon black pepper  
16 ounces (1 pound) dried black beans 
6-8 cups water 
2 lemons, thinly sliced 
Put the oil in a large pot, turn the heat to medium and add the onions, celery and garlic.  Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the vegetables begin to soften.  Add the flour, salt, bay leaf, chili powder and black pepper and stir until fully combined. 
Rinse the black beans and add to the vegetable mixture.  Add 6 cups water and bring to a boil.  Turn down the heat to low and cook, covered for about 2 hours, or until the beans are very soft.  Check every 30 minutes to make sure the water has not boiled away.  If the mixture looks dry, add 1 cup water.  
When the beans are soft, turn off the heat and let the mixture cool.  Remove and discard the bay leaf.  Process the mixture in batches in a blender until it is close to smooth.  If you prefer chunkier soup, process just briefly.  Return the soup to the pot.  If it seems too thick, add more water.  If it’s too thin, cook uncovered over low heat for another 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. 
When ready to serve, reheat the soup, ladle it into bowls and add 1 slice of lemon per bowl.
           For easy-to-make recipes, order "Help! My Apartment Has a Kitchen!"

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