Black Bean Soup

Around this time of year I always get the same ambition. No matter how many times I’ve failed in the past, the sunshine (we do get it sometimes!), warmer weather, and my antsy-ness from being trapped at a desk all winter always leads to the same thought: this year I’m definitely going to be a runner. Now before you get any crazy ideas, let me clarify what I consider to be “a runner”: for me it means someone who runs on a weekly basis, for at least 30 minutes at a time total (this means running + walking), without feeling like they are on death’s door after every session. Pretty low standards, right? I think so. My body doesn’t agree.

This season in particular I got a stronger urge than normal. I think it’s because this time around – for the first time in about 5 years – I have to actually WORK at working out. No laughing, I’m serious! In the past, my hobbies had the (wonderful) added bonus of exercise: climbing, kayaking, biking, being on my feet all day in Japan or in a Vermont coffee shop… I just never had to worry about fitting exercise into my routine. Unfortunately, everything I do these days is in front of a computer screen. Don’t get me wrong, I’m enjoying my studies and am really looking forward to having a summer free of classes to focus on my research, but I’m very quickly realizing I’m going to have to actually make an *ahem* effort to stay healthy now. Can you hear me whimpering?

So, full of naive ambition and covered in sunscreen (some of us only burn), I set out yesterday for my first run of the season. What started off so well quickly deteriorated and it always begins with the “stuff”: having exercise-induced asthma, my puffer is always with me. Then I carry my phone both for safety and for music. Next, I have to find room for a 4″x2″ laminated building keycard with attached apartment key. I settled on stuffing my 4″ puffer into the tiny pocket in my leggings, forcing my phone into my old iPod armband, and sliding the keycard under my waistband…only my puffer kept popping out, my armband kept slipping down (not made for the weight of the iPhone), and I gave myself an uncomfortable blister where the keycard rubbed against my upper thigh.

As I was jogging and juggling objects – more juggling than jogging – my left earbud also refused to stay in. Then the wind picked up (it IS Nova Scotia after all) and, believe it or not, kept blowing the headphones cord into my mouth every few minutes. If you had passed me on the street that day you would have seen a gal puffing her way down the avenue with her left hand on her ear, her right hand holding the cord while simultaneously trying to pull up her armband, a brass key flapping from the front of her pants, and a bulge sticking out the back like a little tail. Oh, and my face was bright purple. Of course.

In the end I gave up, turned around, and just walked home. I couldn’t have been out there more than 20 minutes and I feel like I honestly get a better workout just following my pilates or yoga DVDs in my living room…but those won’t get my outside and into the sunlight. I think I’m going to give running at least a few more shots and am brainstorming ways to make the experience at least more manageable if not less painful. I’ll run my headphones cord through my shirtsleeve next time to – hopefully – keep it out of my mouth. I’ll only run when Brad is home so I won’t have to take the cumbersome keys. I could just hold the phone, although I’m always afraid of dropping it…

How about you? Are you a runner at all? Were you one of the dozens of folks who so effortlessly bounded past me the other day – hands free and head high? haha. Tell me your tricks! My lazy bum may never get used to going more than 3 mph, but I’d at least like to feel able. We’ll see.

Black Bean Soup

(slightly adapted from Cook’s Illustrated Soups & Stews 2010)

Ingredients:

For the Beans…

1   lb.   dried black beans, picked over and rinsed (~2 C)

2   bay leaves

5   C   water

1/8   t    baking soda

1   t   salt

For the Soup…

3   T   olive oil

2   large onions, chopped fine (~3 C)

1   large carrot, peeled, chopped fine (~½ C)

3   celery stalks, chopped fine (~1 C)

½   t   salt

6   garlic cloves, minced (~2 T)

½   t   red pepper flakes

1½   T   ground cumin

4   C   low-sodium vegetable broth

2   T   cornstarch

2   T   water

2   T   fresh lime juice from 1 or 2 limes

For Garnishes…

lime wedges

chopped fresh cilantro leaves

finely diced red onion

diced avocado

plain, non-fat greek yogurt or sour cream

* Note: While the recipe calls for using the liquid the beans are cooked in, you don’t have to be that afraid of…shall we say…the “side effects”. The test kitchen chef explained that the added baking soda not only helps in keeping the beans an attractive black color, but also aids in reducing the bloat beans can cause. Hurray!

Procedure:

1) For the beans: place beans, bay leaves, water, and baking soda in a large saucepan with a tight-fitting lid. Bring to boil over Medium-high heat and skim foam from the service as needed. Once boiling, stir in salt, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until beans are tender – 1¼ to 1½ hours. If necessary, add an additional Cup of water and continue to simmer until beans are tender. Do not drain!* Once beans are done, remove bay leaves and set aside in remaining water.

2) For the soup: heat oil in an 8-quart Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed stockpot over Medium-high heat until shimmering, but not smoking. Add onions, carrot, celery, and salt and cook – stirring occasionally – until vegetables are soft and lightly browned – about 12 to 15 minutes. Reduce heat to Medium-low and add the garlic, pepper flakes, and cumin and cook – stirring constantly – for a few minutes or until fragrant.

3) Stir in all but 2 Cups of the beans w/ their liquid and all of the vegetable broth. If you want a perfectly creamy soup with no chunks of beans, add all the beans at this step. Increase heat to Medium-high and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to low and let it simmer uncovered for about half an hour – stirring occasionally. This will blend the flavors and reduce the stock.

4) To finish, use an immersion blender to puree the soup until creamy or, alternatively, blend the soup in batches in an upright blender or food processor. Once blended, stir in the reserved whole beans (if saved). In a small bowl, stir together cornstarch and water until all lumps have dissolved and then gradually add about half of the mixture into the soup. Return the soup to a boil over Medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, to fully thicken. If you’d prefer you soup to be thicker once it’s boiling, add in the remaining half of the cornstarch slurry (you may have to whisk it a bit to recombine it before adding to soup) and allow soup to boil for a few minutes to thicken further. Remove from heat.

5) Off the heat, stir fresh lime juice into soup until fully incorporated. Ladle soup into bowls and serve immediately with preferred garnishes. Be prepared for meat-loving friends/family to love this Mexican-themed, vegetarian soup. 😉

Beezer’s Notes:

I am really surprised how much Brad and I both liked this soup! This was supposed to be just another healthy meal to add to the repertoire (I adapted it to be vegetarian and used greek yogurt instead of sour cream). In particular, I was waiting to hear complaints about the lack of meat and giant dollops of yogurt – he did refuse to eat it until I confessed it’s true nature – but…BUT…he liked it! WE liked it. The generous amount of cumin gave the soup an unidentifiable richness and the red pepper flakes produced just a slight heat, satisfying without making you sweat. The beans were filling enough to make this soup a great stand-alone dinner (especially with toppings), but we didn’t feel weighed down like you’re apt to with other Mexican-themed meals. Finally, the source recipe suggests using chipotle chilies in adobo sauce instead of the red pepper flakes for a smokier taste. Somehow I missed that note the first time around, but I love my choptle chilies in adobo so I’m really excited to try that variation next time!

Overall Enjoyment:   ♥   ♥   ♥   ♥  

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8 Comments

  1. Love your running adventure! Totally cracked me up 😉 Ive been thinking about trying to become a runner too….but so far, i’ve just gone for long walks! Oh but whenI do run I wrap my ear buds cord around my phone and then tuck it in my bra, near my clavicle/armpit area! Kinda gross, but it stays in place!! Oh and you can lace your key through your sneakers.

    Reply
    • I thought you WERE a runner! You seemed to go pretty regularly last summer, it was really inspiring. That actually is a great idea about the phone/cords, my sports bra should hold it. The small apartment key I thought of sticking in my shoe before, but what about the building keycard? If it weren’t so large or at least a bit more bendable (it’s a pretty solid few milimeters of plastic) it wouldn’t be such an annoyance. I’ve debated back and forth about hiding it under a rock, haha.

      Reply
  2. Best of luck with the running! Keeping the wind at your back makes it easier!

    Reply
    • Thanks! …although I swear the wind here deliberately changes directions to blow right in your face every time, haha.

      Reply
  3. Dan

     /  May 16, 2012

    Lovely food photography, and great plating(!) Keep it up.

    Reply
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