Saving black bean soup for a rainy day

bean01[M]y heart sinks a little every spring. Sounds odd and somewhat off, but when you consider California’s rains conclude in late spring, maybe you’ll understand. There is so little weather here, and the change in seasons is merely by light and feel and temperature, so our winter and spring rain is the one thing that provides mood and distinction and green to an otherwise endless sunny sameness that turns the hillsides brown.

mag01I’ve been obsessed with raindrops this year. Because we’ve had them! California’s drought of the last several years brought so little rainfall that this year, when the rains began to fall in October, it was like Christmas morning. At first that tapping sound was nearly unrecognizable, it had been so long. Then it kept coming. I slept better on those rainy nights than any in recent years.

rainbo1I became consumed. I photographed the light in standing drops on my plants and flowers. I stood soaking on enchanted afternoons where sun met rain and took pictures of a double rainbow over my house. It all felt like a reward after a long, dry journey, and while news reports and ding dongs in my midst airily complained of rain ruining their weekend plans, I cheered for more.

So, it’s April now, and we are lucky to still have showers. The air smells good. I tingle when I hear an occasional rare echo of thunder. I soak it all in, because summer is coming. And it rarely rains in summer here. With the mood and cool and weather that will soon be on the wane, I make soup. A hot bowl of soup and a cool rain go hand-in-hand. I love making soup almost as much as I love listening to rain (and making soup on a rainy day is near heavenly). And of the many soups I love, I have to tip my rain hat most to a delicious black bean soup.

cilan01I’m hungry right now just writing about it. I’ve tried many a black bean soup recipe and this is the best. It has the right amount of everything. A thickly dark and and hearty soup with layers of flavor from bacon (I’ve used the real thing and the soy version for vegetarians), onions and garlic. Richness and depth from tomatoes, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, smoky chili powder. A tangy finish from cilantro and lime.

Black beans are even good for you! The best bean…loaded with fiber, calcium, iron, and B vitamins. How can something so simple be one of the best things? So satisfying. I’ve made this soup, time and again, never getting tired of it. I could eat it every day. Topping it with guacamole, sour cream, a little shredded cheese, green onions. I’ve served it with tortilla chips, garlic bread, cornbread.

I wish the pot was bottomless. I wish the rain was endless. Come August, I’ll be longing for a cooler day, the sound of rain and a hot bowl of soup.beanpot01

Black Bean Soup
Adapted from a recipe by Dave Lieberman, Food Network (
Makes about 4 servings

10 slices bacon, finely chopped
2 medium onions, chopped (about 2 1/2 cups)
6 garlic cloves, pressed
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable stock
1 1/2 cups canned chopped tomatoes
2 tablespoons ketchup
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon chili powder
4 (15 1/2-ounce) cans black beans, drained but not rinsed
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 bunch cilantro
Juice of 1/2 lime
Thinly sliced scallions, for garnish
Sour cream, for garnish
Grated cheddar, for garnish

Put the bacon into a large heavy pot and place it over medium heat. Cook until it starts to give up its fat, about 4 minutes. Stir in the onions and cook, stirring, until they start to turn translucent, about 4 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until you can smell it, about 1 minute. Add the broth, tomatoes, ketchup, Worcestershire, and chili powder. Stir in the beans, turn the heat to high and bring to a boil. Adjust the heat so the soup is bubbling gently and cook 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, pick off all the thick stems from the cilantro. Wash it and shake dry. Chop the cilantro coarsely and stir it into the soup when it has been simmering 10 minutes. cook until the soup is thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the lime juice. Serve with the garnishes.

Blogger’s Note: I prefer using sweet red onions for this recipe. have made this soup with both real and soy bacon and have used both chicken or vegetable stock for vegetarian options.


Comments are closed.