|This picture of my sucked-dry dutch oven is the only evidence I have of the awesomeness of this soup. And really, do I need any more?|
I made a rather thrown together Black Bean and Sausage soup for the small group I'm in at my church. I say thrown together because it was one of those amazing times when you open your cabinets, start reaching for stuff, put it all together and it turns out fabulous. I based it on a Taco Soup recipe from my new favorite cookbook, Dinner: a Love Story by Jenny Rosenstrach. The Taco Soup calls for chicken and white hominy (interesting, right?) and I've made it so many times that I sort of just knew what seasonings to use in the Black Bean and Sausage version. I didn't do any measuring, so I'll just list the ingredients and approximate how much to use, but please season to taste. This soup could be made very spicy with a lot of heat, or only mildly spicy and plenty flavorful, which is how I like to make it. Here goes:
Black Bean and Sausage Soup
Cooking oil spray
1 lb. bulk italian sausage (or turkey sausage)
2 T. olive oil or canola oil
1 medium white onion, diced
1 jalapeno, diced and seeded (Note: if you want more heat leave some or all of the seeds in)
2 - 15 oz. cans of black beans, drained and rinsed
1 - 14 oz. can of crushed tomatoes
6 cups of chicken stock
2 dried red chili peppers (these mostly just add flavor and no heat as long as you don't cut them open)
The following spices are approximations, please taste while seasoning.
1 T. chili powder
1 T. cumin
2 t. tumeric
2 t. garlic powder
1 t. dried oregano
2 T. chopped fresh cilantro
salt and pepper to taste
Optional, but why would you opt out?
1. In a large stew pot or dutch oven, spray with cooking oil and completely brown the sausage, crumbling it as you cook.
2. Transfer the sausage and any juices to another plate and reheat the pot (make sure it's relatively dry with no juice in the bottom of the pot).
3. Add the olive oil and caramelize the onions and jalapeno. Really take the time to caramelize the onions, this is crucial to the flavor of the stock. Cook slowly until nice and brown.
4. Add the sausage back to the pot along with the beans, tomatoes, chili peppers, and stock.
5. Add all the spices and herbs, being sure to taste and adjust as needed. Note for people who hate cilantro: When you add it to the pot before simmering it sort of mellows and loses its sharp flavor. Everyone who ate it said the cilantro didn't bother them at all, so don't leave it out. If you love the taste of cilantro, you can always add a fresh sprinkle to the bowl when you serve it.
6. Bring the soup to a boil and turn down and simmer for about 20 minutes.
7. Ladle into bowls and top with a little shredded cheddar. A squeeze of fresh lime juice would also be fab.
The longer the soup sits the better the flavor. This is a good one to make early and reheat later to eat. Let me know in the comments if you try it and how it turns out. This one's a definite winner in my opinion.
A word about chili peppers:
There's no need to worry about chili peppers adding too much heat to your dishes. I serve these "central american" style soups to my kids with no trouble. The key is to not cut the dried ones open, or to make sure you remove all the seeds from the fresh ones. And of course, I know you know, to be sure to wash you hands thoroughly after handling them. A forgetful rub of the eye after touching chilis can be excruciating. Trust me, folks. The dried red chilis are usually sold in plastic bags like hard candy, and found in the produce section of the grocery store. If your store doesn't have them, try a Mexican market or one with a fairly extensive international offering, like Butera or Meier. Good luck!