It's the canned version I remember. That was what we occasionally had for lunch -- but never for dinner. Campbell's, I think it was - a pretty rare purchase made by my frugal Mom. But the flavor sure stuck with me.
Of course I didn't learn about the possibility of meatless meals until I had a vegetarian house mother the year I worked on a farm in England after high school. She introduced me to all kinds of possibilities for nutritious, budget-conscious meals.
So when I was a poor grad student and then a low-earning newlywed, I made it a point to try to re-create her delicious vegetarian fare, as well as my childhood favorites. This particular soup was definitely one of those.
I wanted to replicate the flavor, but add a whole lot more heartiness to make it a meal in a pot. I soon came up with this recipe.
It was a mainstay of my menu repertoire for many years, included in the cookbook I created for family members one Christmas in lieu of gifts we could not afford. But I had not used it in years and years, and had actually forgotten about it until recently when I happened to notice it again among my recipes.
I cooked it up shortly thereafter, fell in love with it all over again, and proceeded to make it a few times over the course of the next few weeks.
From my recollection, it happened something like this: per the recipe, I put some of the soup in the blender to partially puree it, but somehow neglected to put the lid on the blender.
You can imagine the results. There was black bean soup splattered everywhere, including on my ceiling and walls! It took a good long while to clean the worst of it off, but the only way to remove the stains was by repainting.
That was not a happy cooking experience.
Needless to say, I have never forgotten the blender lid since. And in the intervening years, I have actually found that I prefer it in its non-pureed version anyway.
The trauma of that episode probably caused me to blot out everything I knew about this recipe, but I am glad that I found it again. It is delicious, cheap, and very easy to make - a lovely, hearty soup that makes a great meal.
It is also a soup that allows plenty of versatility in that you can choose to increase or decrease the vegetables called for. And you can opt to make use of any leftover cooked rice you might have on hand from a previous meal, or you can make it with potatoes instead. Any which way, it's a gluten free meal.
Serve it with fresh, warm bread and a green salad, and you have a wholesome, satisfying meal that costs very, very little.
Here’s the recipe:
Makes 8-10 servings (can easily be halved or doubled)
Total Prep Time – approximately 20 minutes
Total Start to Finish Time – 40-60 minutes
(or about 2 ½ hours if you do not have a pressure cooker and are using dry beans)
Total Recipe Cost – $4-$8 (depending on what kind of beans you use)
Total per Serving Meal Cost, with salad and bread – approximately $1.00-$1.50
4 cans black beans (or 2 cups of dry black beans + 6 cups of water + 1/2 teaspoon of salt)
3-4 tablespoons of oil
1 medium-large onion
1 large green pepper
2-3 large stalks of celery
3-4 large carrots
3 medium potatoes or 1-2 cups leftover cooked brown rice
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
2½ cups water
2-3 teaspoons ground cumin (to taste)
3/4 teasoon of salt (to taste)
½ teaspoon pepper (to taste)
Fresh cilantro or chives (optional)
Yogurt or sour cream (optional)
Recipe continues after photos
Cooking the Dry Beans:
- If you have no pressure cooker, soak 2 cups of beans overnight in about 4 cups of water. Drain and rinse them, place them in a large pot, and add the 6 cups of water, and the 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
- Simmer them until just about tender (about 2 hours).
- If you have a pressure cooker, rinse the black beans in a colander, and put them in the pressure cooker with the 6 cups of water and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Close the pressure cooker and place over high heat.
- When the cooker comes up to pressure, as indicated by the button in the handle popping up, and the weight rattling slightly, then reduce the heat to medium-medium low and cook the beans under pressure for 30-35 minutes. Set a timer to remind yourself.
- When the beans have cooked the allotted time, place the pressure cooker in the sink, and run cold water over it until the hissing stops and the pressure button pops back down.
- Open the lid of the pressure cooker. Check the beans for doneness by tasting one. They should be tender, but not mushy. If they need more time, replace the lid and weight and repeat the process for another 10 minutes or so.
- While the beans are cooking, or if you are using canned beans, move on to prepare the vegetables.
- Cut off the ends of the medium-large onion and peel it. Dice it and set it aside.
- Wash the 2-3 large stalks of celery, cut off the wide end, and any damaged bits from the leafy end. Slice and dice the whole stalk, including any leaves, and set it aside with the rest of the vegetables.
- Wash, scrub (or peel) the 3-4 large carrots. Cut off the ends and slice them lengthwise and then crosswise to dice them. Set them aside with the other vegetables
- Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat.
- Stir the diced vegetables into the oil. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Meanwhile, wash the green pepper, cut off the lid, and remove the seeds. Dice the green pepper.
- After the carrot, celery, and onion mixture have cooked for a while, add the diced green pepper, and cook for about 5 additional minutes, stirring often.
- Meanwhile, peel the 3 potatoes, if you're using them. Cut them into chunks about ½ - ¾ inch in size.
- Add the 2½ cups of water to the vegetables in the pot, along with the potatoes, the 2-3 teaspoons of cumin, the 3/4 teaspoon of salt, and the 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Cover the pot and turn the heat to high. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium and allow to simmer for about 20-30 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.
- When the vegetables are tender, stir in the tomato paste until well blended.
- Add the canned or cooked black beans to the pot, including their liquid. Stir and blend well.
- If you are using rice instead of potatoes, stir it into the soup at the end. Taste test and adjust seasonings. Cover the pot and allow to heat through for about 5 minutes.
- Wash the 1-2 lemons and roll them firmly on a hard surface to loosen the juices. Cut them in half.
- If desired, you can puree part or all of the soup in a regular blender, or with a hand-held one. But you can also serve the soup as is.
- Ladle the soup into large bowls, and add a squeeze of lemon to taste. If desired, add some chopped cilantro or chives, and an optional dollop of yogurt or sour cream.
- Serve it with a fresh, tossed salad of greens and a nice loaf of fresh bread or garlic bread for a delicious, hearty, and satisfying meal.