Havana Black Bean Soup

As part of my review of the book Gran Cocina Latina: The Food of Latin America by Maricel E. Presilla, I tested three recipes, two of which you will find here: her Havana-style Black Bean Soup and her Salted Cod Casserole. Sometimes, when I say I wish the earth would stand still so that I could explore one or two cookbooks from cover to cover, Grand Cocina Latina always makes the list, along with Dorie Greenspan’s Around my French Table, the Nigel Slater “journals” and basically anything by Yotam Ottolenghi. No wonder Presilla won the James Beard Award for Book of the Year.

Confession time: Years ago, during my vegetarian period, I often made a meal out of a black bean… cup-a-soup. One bite of this homemade version and here was the taste I remembered so much, but on full blast. I just might have squeaked: “This is my soup!.” It’s a bit labor-intensive, granted, but oh so worth it. Plus it’s healthy, nourishing and even vegan. What more can you ask from a simple bowl of heaven? Enjoy.

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  • 1. For beans ••• In a heavy pot, combine beans, water, onion, green pepper and bay leaf, then bring to boil over high heat. Lower to medium and simmer 1 1/2 hour or until beans are tender.
  • 2. If using red bell pepper (I recommend!), preheat oven to 400°F. Place red pepper (why not make some more while you’re at it) on a cookie sheet and roast until black, around 45 minutes or so. Remove, transfer to a bowl, seal with plastic wrap and let cool. When cold, peel off skin, seed and chop. Make sure to keep the liquid at the bottom of the bowl.
  • 3. When beans are soft, discard onion, pepper and bay leaf. Remove a good 1/2 cup of beans and mash into a purée. Reserve. Keep beans on low while you make the sofrito.
  • 4. For sofrito ••• Heat oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and sauté 20 sec. Add onion, peppers and bay leaf, then sauté 5 minutes or until soft. Add cumin and oregano, then stir-cook 1 minute. Incorporate mashed beans and cook 1 minute.
  • 5. For soup ••• Add sofrito to pot along with vinegar, salt, pepper, sugar and reserved red pepper with their liquid (my addition BTW). Simmer over low heat 30-45 minuts or until creamy. Remove bay leaf.