Oh January, we meet again.
Now that the holidays are over, New York has a tendency to descend into its winter-long hibernation. No one wants to do anything because it’s either snowing, has snowed or is just too damn cold outside, so you can either pull on the Hunter boots and see what’s shaking at the local watering holes a block or two away, or you only venture out to collect provisions from Fairway and the local wine shop and cocoon in your apartment. It’s the perfect excuse to spend the morning flipping through cookbooks, particularly new ones acquired during the holidays, looking for that perfect project to warm up the apartment…but there is also the temptation to want to indulge in comfort foods because it is so cold outside.
While I’m all for succumbing to temptation (December’s below-average temperatures certainly urged our inclination to braise anything that came in our way), there is something to be said for injecting warm-but-lighter meals into the mix as the new year starts. Having worked in several food categories that do a lot of promotion during this time of year, I’m probably even more tired than all of you in seeing all of the resolutions-themed ads and content out there that’s meant to shame us all for daring to indulge at the end of last year. So I present this dish to you as a compromise of sorts: it’s spicy, it’s vegetarian-friendly, and it involves my favorite soup ingredient: wine. A cup of red wine will add body to any vegetarian soup out there, and it’s a lot more interesting than only relying on 3 cups of water to create your soup’s broth.
I also wanted to up the spice content to help clear out the sinuses, so when I poured that cup of Temperanillo I also grabbed my pimentón de la vera to add a smoky element to the party. I was worried that it wouldn’t come through considering the use of cumin and chile powder, but I could definitely taste it off of the back of my tongue. Even Michael, who was sidelined on the couch after catching the bug I had on New Year’s, said that the soup was delicious and could eat a bowl of it–and he wasn’t eating much of anything that day.
Just be sure to finish it with a generous squeeze of lime juice to add the perfect balance of spice and acidity, and you have a bowl of comfort that also helps you feel a little bit virtuous.
Spicy Black Bean Soup
adapted from Gourmet
serves 4 as a first course, or 2 very hungry people on its own.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 fresh jalapeño chile, chopped (seeded if you want to lower the heat)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon pimentón de la vera
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 15.5 oz cans black beans, drained and rinsed
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup dry red wine
- 1/4 cup cilantro, minced
- Lime wedges
- Kosher salt
Over medium heat, heat the oil in a heavy pot and add the onion, garlic, chile, cumin, chili powder, oregano, paprika and a few pinches of salt and saute until they have started to brown, about 6 or 7 minutes. Add the beans, wine, water and bay leaf and bring to a simmer for 15 minutes, letting it reduce slightly. Remove the bay leaf and discard.
Add about 2 cups of soup to a blender or food processor and puree until smooth, using caution when handling hot liquids. Return the puree to the soup and heat over medium-low heat, stirring constantly for about 5 minutes, adding more salt to taste. Ladle into bowls, garnish with cliantro and lime juice and serve immediately.