Thursday, July 30, 2015

Butternut and Black Bean Soups

I would like to begin a new thread on The Pie-biting Frog about soup. I started a project earlier this year to cook seasonal vegetarian and vegan soups for my wife from a book called Twelve Months of Monastery Soups I found in our local used book store Kaboom Books. Like Mark Bittman's "flexitarianism" I've been gradually shifting toward eating vegetarian until after 5 p.m. I've always enjoyed eating flavorful vegetables and making this shift supports my health, saves money, and is more sustainable for the environment (because meat production is 10-100 times more intensive than vegetable production in terms of water use). I try to buy buy as much of my eggs and meat from local farmers who pasture raise their animals, so that I minimize the suffering of factory meat production. Because the book is organized by months with vegetables that are seasonal in that month, it makes it easy to shop for ingredients in the farmer's market and to practice mindfulness/being in the present moment at the same time.

While most of the soups I've been cooking lately have tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, zucchini, and squash, today's two soups could be served in the fall/winter when winter squash and beans are seasonal. I've been storing butternuts for several months. They have transpired some of their mass, which makes them have a more concentrated flavor.

Butternut Squash Soup (Emeril Lagasse)

Butternut soup just before pureeing

1 Butternut squash, about 2 pounds
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped garlic
3 to 4 carrots thinly sliced or diced
1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 finely minced jalapeno pepper
4 cups chicken stock
1/2 to 1 cup of white wine

Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Peel the squash and cut into 1 inch pieces. In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring often, until they begin to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the carrot, cumin, salt, and pepper. Cook for 1 minute, and then add squash, jalapeno pepper, chicken stock and wine (if needed add extra stock or water so that almost all the squash is covered.) Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 15- 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender. Remove from the heat and puree the soup using an immersion blender, or transfer to a blender or food processor. Puree until smooth.

Black Bean Soup

French Black Bean soup is topped with crumbled eggs

1 cup dried or 1 lg can of black beans 
1 Tbsp olive oil
½ onion, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 qt water
¼ cup rice
Juice of one lemon
Salt and pepper to tastes
2 Tbsp flour
2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped

Soak the black beans overnight. Rinse them in cold water and drain. Place 1 Tbsp butter in the soup pot and saute the onion for a few minutes. Add the soaked beans, celery, and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to medium-low. Cook slowly for 1 ½ hrs, stirring occasionally. When the beans are tender* add the rice, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and more water if necessary. Cover the pot and cook another 30 minutes. Make a quick light roux from the remaining 1 Tbsp oil and flour. Whisk the roux into the soup. To add creaminess, blend a small portion of the soup and return to the pot. Serve topped with chopped hard-boiled eggs.

*The outer skin of beans will toughen after adding acid, so always fully cook beans before adding acidic liquids.

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