Let’s make a side dish… Black Bean Soup!

Life becomes more important for two months and I cast aside my little blog … how unfair!

As promised,  I might as well jump directly back in here with one of my favorite recipes for a flavorful and simple black bean soup. When I have the opportunity to order this dish at a restaurant I always do so because every chef puts their own spin on it! I have had soups that are creamier than others, some filled with veggies, even others that have shredded chicken in them. All in all, black bean soup is one thing that can be transformed in so many different ways, but never ruined.

Black bean sop coupled with so many different dishes. The paella serves as a nice match up because the the vegetables that go into the soup mix well with the flavors that are tasted in the paella. It is also highly recommended to mix the beans amongst the rice to create fusion of these flavors!

To give credit where it is due, I used a recipe by Douglas Rodriguez, which can be found on Epicurious.com and adapted it into my own version of black bean soup. I first made Rodriquez’s dish exactly as he instructs and it seemed too watery, and not flavorful enough. My adaptations provide for a soup with increased flavor and a thicker base.

The black beans used in this case will be uncooked therefore, the first step here is to purchase

  • 2 pounds of dried black beans

They are cheap, and easy to find. I prefer to go to Whole Foods and buy mine, but the Goya brand beans are also great brand and can be found in any local supermarket.

This recipe needs to be started EARLY, as the beans need ample to cook. It is important that right away, from the two pounds of black beans, you submerge  i

  • 1 pound + 1/2 cup of the beans

in THREE quarts of water along with three bay leaves.

The choice to use over a pound is to increase the thickness of the soup. In the end if you feel that your soup is too thick you can always add more water to loosen up the dish. When going through this step make sure that the lid of the pot is on at all times. As these beans start to reach a boil, stir them every few minutes and make sure that there are no beans fixing themselves into the bottom of the pan.

Once the beans are boiling, reduce the heat to medium, or depending on what type of cook top you have, possibly medium low if the boil is still too intense, and let the beans cook for 2 to 3 hours. As before, stir these beans constantly. If you find that your beans are becoming too soft before the 2 to 3 hours have elapsed, turn off the heat completely and let the beans rest with the lid off of the pot.

As the beans are cooking, the veggie portion of the dish needs to be made –

This will require

  • 2 red bell peppers
  • 1 yellow bell pepper
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 3 shallots
  • 2 large onion

Each of these vegetables needs to be properly cleaned and chopped. As you do so, place them all in a large bowl together. Once everything is completely chopped, remove the contents from the bowl and place them in a skillet that has 1 cup of heated extra virgin olive oil in it.

The vegetables will take about 10-15 minutes to cook properly so that the peppers are slightly soft and the onions are no longer noticeably white.

At this point you should add to the saucepan

  • 1 clove of garlic (minced)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon garlic salt (or garlic powder)

and allow all of those flavors to properly coat the vegetables. This should take only a minute or so, and once the veggies look properly mixed, turn of the heat and let the pan cool.

After most of the heat has escaped from the vegetables, carefully take them a or nd place them in either a food processor a blender. Puree this until the colors are blended perfectly together.

Before combining this mixture with the cooking beans, use a spoon to remove one of your beans to test for firmness. Make sure that the beans are not over cooked to mush, but if they are soft to the touch and able to chew on, it is okay to add this puree along with salt to taste. I say this with extreme caution, DO NOT PUT TOO MUCH SALT. Like extra water, salt can always be added and but NEVER removed. My personal choice is to put about

  • 2 – 2 1/2 tablespoons of salt

You will also want to add

  • 1 tablespoon of sugar

I am unable to eat refined white sugar, so in my case I use three packets of either Stevia or Splenda. Evaporate Cane Juice is also an awesome choice in order to keep this dish completely healthy!

The most important step comes now, but it is also a step you can partake in by choice. Depending on how thick you want your soup to be, either let the contents simmer WITH the lid on – this will keep the soup more loose or let the contents simmer WITHOUT the lid on – leaving the water to cook out and providing for thicker mix.

After about 20 to 30 minutes the soup will be ready to be placed in a BIG bowl, please don’t be stingy with your soup, it is too tasty for that! If you choose to garnish it with anything from a light shredded cheese, to a dollop of nonfat yogurt or light sour cream remember that it is a side dish so the heavier you garnish it the more filling it will be.

This soup is an excellent choice if you want to stay healthy, while also trying to find something that will serve as comfort food! Enjoy.

Paella

After a long week of classes and group projects, I must say I am so happy to sit down and share my first real recipe with you. Now, it is a whole different section of my body (my stomach) that is fighting me doing this – How can I write about making paella without actually having any made right now to eat as I type! Complete torture…

I must begin by explaining that this is not the most traditional Paella recipe, but in order to keep the difficulty level and expenses down, I adapted this recipe to work for anyone, anywhere, with any type of grocery store near by!

I will start each recipe with the necessities. I wish every recipe writing would because how many times have I scanned a recipe before I cooked and realized while I was midway that I actually do not have that spice, or that type of oil!

So let’s do this – Make sure you have THESE ITEMS in your kitchen before you begin with your Paella –

  • Saffron – without it, no chance at making Paella. It is the integral spice that makes Paella it’s gorgeous yellow color, but just a warning it is very expensive. All it takes is a pinch of a few strings of it and your dish will be fulfilled. This is what you should be looking for in your grocery aisle –
  • Don't look for a powder! Look for stringy orange/yellow threads

photo credit to http://www.saffronusa.com
  • The proper pan – you cannot make Paella without a large enough saucepan, or ideally a true paella pan. It needs to fit on your stovetop, but also be appropriate for inside the oven, which is where the recipe receives its finally flavors! Here is an example of an actual paella pan, however, a large and deep saucepan also does the trick –

Now, the necessities list is different from the ingredients list, so pay close attention to each ingredient listed below. Although each ingredient is crucial, not only to the flavors, but to the colors of your dish, the portions of each ingredient can be experimented with. The more time you spend cooking, the more adventurous your wrist gets as you toss your ingredients into your dish!

The INGREDIENTS:

1 rotisserie chicken (You will need as much meat off of it as you can pull!)

10 ounces chorizo (Or a comparable equivalent – andouille sausage is slightly less expensive)

4-5 cups of chicken stock (Please read the labels – I will do a post on labels soon, but keep it a low sodium version, and make sure the stock has NO MSG in it)

1 large onion, diced well

1 shallot, finely diced

1 small clove of garlic, finely minced

1 roma tomato, diced

1 bell pepper, diced

1/2 cup frozen peas

1 1/2 tablespoons oil (I really love Smart Balance oil, you all will catch on to that!)

2 cups arborio rice (Feel free to also use any other short/medium grained rice)

Seasonings –

2 pinches of saffron threads

3 bay leaves

1/4 teaspoon paprika (make it a heaping teaspoon, it is a great flavor!)

Sea salt and Ground pepper to your preference

Okay – READY, SET, Pull out your pan, put your oven at 400 degrees, and Let’s Cook!

1. I will repeat it, but make sure your oven is on and set to 400 degrees, also make sure your pan is on the stovetop with the oil heating at a high heat.

2. Once your oil is at the proper temperature, take your chorizo (or the equivalent) and once you have it chopped into manageable pieces, begin browning it in the pan. This should take a few minutes – make sure it is only slightly browned –

3. This sausage will then be joined with,

  • Minced garlic
  • Diced large onion
  • Diced shallot
  • Diced red pepper

4. Make sure the veggies are constantly stirred so as to keep them from browning. They should just take a few minutes to become tender, but not fully cooked through.

5. Take your uncooked rice and toss it into the pan so that it can get coated in the juices and flavors. This is when you should add in all of the seasonings –

  • Saffron threads
  • Bay leaves
  • Paprika

6. The chicken stock will then be poured over the entire pan so that the rice, veggies, and seasonings are fully covered. It should look relatively yellow from the saffron! Yum!

7. To put the final ingredients into the mix, take all of the chicken you removed from your rotisserie chicken and put in into the pan, and also add the 1/2 cup of peas and the diced tomato that should be left over!

8. Finally, with two hands because the pan should have become very heavy, insert it into your 400 degree oven to complete the mixing of flavors! This process of allowing the stock to absorb into everything should take around 20 minutes, but make sure you keep an eye on your creation!

Really though, about 8 minutes in your house, apartment, or dorm room should be brimming with scents! It is one of the most fragrant and delicious combinations of tastes and textures that there is! It is important to note too, that anything seafood can be added into the mix here. If you want, throw some peeled frozen shrimp into the pan once the sausage is slightly browned and that will add a whole different spin onto the meal. I made this dish for one of my pickiest eaters in my circle of friends and he loved it, he even went back for seconds, so I guarantee that once you open the oven to your completed creation, you will have absolutely no leftovers!

Now it is only appropriate for the best part of the entry- tasting with your eyes!

 

 

IMG_8124

a Philly girl's take on Paella!

 

 

 

Enjoy your experience in the kitchen, enjoy every flavor, enjoy every smell, and of course, just ENJOY!

Promise PROMISE you will love this Paella.