Inhale. Exhale. I am learning to go with the flow of life, and not fight it at the onset of trivial inconveniences. I got stuck unexpectedly in last Saturday’s snowstorm. I was working for a friend, manning her booth at Columbus Circle Holiday Market, all fine and good until the snow started blowing. Right. In. my. Face. The last I checked, we were only supposed to get 1-3 inches of snow. It started coming down just as I left my apartment. The snowfall was so beautiful—big beautiful snowflakes slowly descending through the air—that I stopped a couple times on my way to the train to take pictures of the falling snow. It continued this way until around 11:00, at which point it started snowing heavier and the wind picked up. But there were plenty of people out shopping and eating at the market. I wanted to scream, “What are you doing! Why aren’t you home curled up on your couch watching a movie or baking Christmas cookies?” Instead, people were willingly out in the elements. By 2:00 the snow was whipping sideways directly into my face. Errrgh. Come on, universe. I asked for a light dusting of snow for Christmas, not a blizzard!
Mr. K and I had dinner plans that night with some good friends of ours that we hadn’t seen in a few months. They recently took a trip to China, and I was eager for them to regale us with their stories. Alas, we decided to cancel due to the storm. (Who needs a night of icy sidewalks, train delays, and freezing toes?) What to do for dinner now? My shift ended at 3:00, so I proceeded to walk across the street ever- so-carefully to Whole Foods. (I almond wiped out twice, I kid you not.) If we were going to be stuck inside tonight, we were at least going to eat well, goshdarnit. I picked up a couple of dried ancho chiles thinking something spicy should be on the menu for a cold night. And my husband happens to be a spice freak, so I knew he would be happy with this decision. When I finally got home at 5:00, I changed into some warm, dry clothes and started making this black bean soup.
Both Mr. K and I agreed that it was the perfect warm and spicy dish for such a gross weather day. The recipe is very straightforward. If you aren’t an ancho chile fan, go ahead and use a dried pasilla chile or perhaps a couple of poblano chiles. Any chile would work in this soup, frankly. The soup has a nice little touch of heat, but you can certainly dial up the heat by adding more chiles. I’m still working on acclimating my palate to the level of my husband’s where spice is concerned, so I was pretty conservative on the chiles. If you can’t find queso fresco in your local supermarket, any salty, dry cheese that crumbles nicely will work just fine.
Black Bean Soup with Toasted Ancho Chiles
Adapted from Bon Appétit
Yield: 6 servings
2 tablespoons raw shelled pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
1 large dried anchi chile, stemmed, seeds removed
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled, crushed
1 28-oz. can fire-roasted or plain diced tomatoes
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
3 14.5-oz. cans black beans, drained
1/2 cup crumbled queso fresco or feta
1. Toast pumpkin seeds in a small dry skillet over medium-high heat, tossing occasionally, until golden, about 5 minutes; transfer to a plate.
2. Toast ancho chile in same skillet until slightly darkened and pliable, about 1 minute; transfer to plate.
3. Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft and golden brown, 8-10 minutes.
4. Transfer to a blender. Add tomatoes, ancho chile, 1 can of black beans and blend until smooth.
5. Return tomato mixture to saucepan and cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, until thick, 6-8 minutes. Stir in broth; season with salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until soup is slightly thickened, 10-15 minutes.
6. Stir in 2 remaining cans of black beans. Cook, stirring occasionally, until warmed through, about 5 minutes.
7. Serve soup topped with queso fresco and pumpkin seeds.