Wednesday, February 14, 2007


We have a friend who, telling us a story of a bachelor party dominated by men in their mid-thirties, described how one particularly intoxicated partygoer shouted "COLLEGE!" at irregular intervals throughout their debauched evening. "COLLEGE!" apparently equalled "PARTY!" or, perhaps more likely, binge drinking. But better to say "COLLEGE!" because on top of it all, it's funny.

Far less reminiscent of Animal House is this soup, which takes ME back to college days. My buddy B.A.D. used to make this, her Mom's recipe, and invite a few of us over to relax and have dinner together, like grown-ups. Yes, there are elements of college life here: it's cheap, it is made from beans (as countless numbers of my college-years dinners were), and it makes enough to have several meals worth. But the whole is so much more than its parts, and who (I ask you, who?) doesn't need a good black-bean soup recipe?

I've tried other recipes, with success, but I like this one because of its restraint. It is not doused in handfuls of spices, just a generous amount of dried thyme. It surprises me how lovely the thyme is in this dish, as I'd certainly be tempted to go an oregano-cumin route. This way is much more interesting. The only change I've made is to add a half of a minced habanero pepper to the mix, though this could easily be omitted.

B.A.D.'s Badass Black Bean Soup
1 large onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 habanero pepper (be careful handling this! VERY, VERY HOT!), minced
1 T. dried thyme
1 14-oz. can diced tomatoes
4 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
3 cups chicken stock or 2 cans reduced-sodium chicken broth
Sour cream or yogurt, for serving
Tabasco sauce, for serving

Saute chopped onion and pepper in olive oil in a dutch oven over medium heat until tender. Add garlic and pepper and cook 30 seconds, stirring. Add thyme, rubbing between fingers before adding to the pot. Add tomatoes, beans, and stock. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer at least 20 minutes. Puree soup, either with an immersion blender or in batches in a blender. Serve with desired toppings.

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