Plugged in

This weekend was emotional – not sad, or hard, but intensely happy. My cheeks were actually sore from smiling so much, and when we got home, it was hard to adjust to life without the constant energy that surrounds a wedding. I meandered around the house all day yesterday, feeling meaningless. When I didn’t have the focus or energy to work, I ran errands, and when those lost their spark, I made soup. Yesterday, in Seattle, we had the kind of rainy, gray weather that chills you to the bone, then gets inside the smallest spaces at the centers of your bones, so that even the natural energy that runs constantly down my spine seemed like it might be extinguished, especially after a weekend that looked mostly like this:

View from Inn at Ship Bay

I made soup, a thick, hot soup, and as I sat at the counter in the middle of the day slurping it down, the late-season baby tomatoes I’d thrown in at the last moment bursting in my mouth, I felt as though my bones had been fitted with an electric blanket. Plugged in, I sat there for a minute afterwards, feeling better.

Then I crawled under the covers, right under the pile of clean laundry I’d tossed onto the bed earlier in the day, and slept.

How boring it looks, this poor soup. Just a bunch of black beans, all mashed up. But look closer – there’s earthy, flavorful kale, still miraculously sprite after a full week in my refrigerator. There’s cumin and cilantro and carrots and garlic, plus a touch of bacon for you folks whose idea of eating vegetarian for a night means making the meat invisible. (Ahem, that would be me, but don’t worry, you can make this with a good glug of olive oil instead, and it will still be delicious.)

I can’t wait to have it for lunch again today, because it’s delicious, for one, and also because today’s the day. I need my liquids.

Black Bean Soup  plain

Farmers’ Market Black Bean Soup (PDF)
Recipe 289 of 365

When I shop at farmers’ markets, the shiny allure of long, luscious vegetable displays has an evil twin: produce greed. I often buy more than I can possibly use in the days that come, which means I inevitably face the challenge of using vast quantities of produce all at once, before it goes bad. Add what’s in your fridge, as you see fit – substituting chard for kale, yellow onions for red, or parsnips for carrots, for example.

TIME: 30 minutes active time
MAKES: 6 to 8 servings

1 pound raw, fresh black beans, rinsed and picked over
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt
4 thick slices good bacon, diced
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 large head kale, ribbed and shredded (about 3/4 pound trimmed kale, or enough shredded kale to fill a gallon-sized zip-top bag)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 large carrots, peeled and finely chopped
1 large ripe tomato, chopped
1/4 cup (packed) cilantro (leaves only), chopped

Place the black beans in a pot, and add water to cover by a little more than an inch. Add the bay leaf and salt and bring to a boil. Remove the pot from the heat, cover, and let sit 1 hour.

Heat a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the bacon, and cook 5 minutes, until almost crispy. Add the onions, garlic, and cumin, and cook until onions begin to soften, stirring occasionally. Add kale, season with salt and pepper, stir, cover, and cook 10 minutes. Remove the bay leaf from the beans, then add the beans and all their cooking liquid to the soup pot, along with the carrots and tomatoes. Bring the soup back to a bare simmer, and cook for 20 minutes, stirring once or twice. Stir in the cilantro, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Black Bean Soup unblended

Serve as is, or puree the soup in small batches with a food processor or blender, until very smooth. Serve hot.

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Filed under gluten-free, recipe, soup

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