Vegan Chipotle Black Bean & Tomato Soup

Saturday, February 09, 2013

It's a blessing that I'm able to cook with mostly fresh foods day to day. But the reality is that just like most everybody else, I find myself low on food from time to time and can't get to the grocery store. When the fridge is on "E", most of us end up grabbing fast food, ordering take out, or skipping meals, none of which tend to be the healthiest choices. However, if you keep your pantry stocked throughout the year with food staples, it's actually pretty easy to come up with some tasty homemade meals using limited ingredients. It can be a challenge for me to cook without meat, let alone having to break out the canned food or other non-perishables.  That said, it's still possible to get creative with ingredients I wouldn't typically rely on as focal points in my dishes. Soups lend themselves really easily to that. Everything cooks in one pot and you can throw in odd bits & ends of whatever food you scrounge up. Best part? They're ridiculously cheap & quick to make.

I don't eat a lot of soup, but it's the first thing I turn to when I am sick, when I'm broke, or when there's nasty weather outside, all of which prevent me from getting out to shop or wanting to cook anything complicated. This vegan black bean soup recipe was exactly one of those nights, and I was pretty pleased with the results. It's hearty, spicy, and creamy, and came out as a cross between Cuban-style black beans and a good tomato soup. This couldn't have been easier to make. Using sun dried tomatoes instead of fresh tomatoes was a particularly successful move, as they imparted a richer tomato flavor into my soup. If you made it a little thicker, it would also make an excellent black bean dip (I know this because I totally binged on fresh tortillas dipped in black bean soup that night.)  I've made this soup a few times and each version varied slightly depending on what ingredients I had on hand. I hope you have fun pulling out some of those pantry items and making it your own!

P.S. You know what else you can make with pantry items? Fresh tortillas. I'm still working on churning out the perfect tortillas, but have to say these were pretty delicious.

Vegan Chipotle Black Bean & Tomato Soup

1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 c. vegetable stock (or 1 can)
1 can creamed corn
1 c. sun dried tomato halves
1 small sweet onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
4 cloves garlic, peeled & thinly sliced
2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, chopped
½ c. chopped cilantro
Juice of 2 limes
Kosher salt, to taste
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 tbsp Mexican spice blend, or more to taste (suggestion below):
  • 2 tsp dried oregano 
  • 1 tsp cumin 
  • 1 tsp chili powder 
  • 1 tsp coriander 
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika 
  •  ½ tsp garlic powder 
  •  ½ tsp ground Chipotle powder 
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
Serves: 2
Prep Time: 10 min
Cook Time: 20 min
Special Equipment: Small pot, blender.

Make your spice blend if you're doing that with your own spices, which of course I'm going to tell you that you should be doing.  This one has the cumin, chili powder & oregano reminiscent of most Mexican blends, but I liked the deep undertones of spicy ground Chipotle and smoked paprika in there too.

Heat a small pot over medium heat and gently fry the sliced garlic in coconut oil. This infuses the oil with all that garlicky deliciousness.

Add the chopped onions and saute until translucent. Prep work is so much easier with soups because you don't have to be precise with cutting and chopping. The veggies are going to cook down and take a spin in the blender, so a rough chop is just fine.

Next, add the diced bell peppers and chopped Chipotle peppers. Bell peppers, onions and garlic are three things I pretty much always have on hand, even when I'm low on groceries.  A small can of Chipotle peppers in Adobo sauce goes a long way. I just use one or two at a time in most of my recipes, so I store leftovers in a small reclosable container in my fridge.

Add a pinch of kosher salt and cook until the peppers have softened.

I seasoned the peppers and onions with a heaping tablespoon of Mexican spice blend, so use more or less depending on your tastes.

In goes the black beans and a can full of vegetable stock (about a cup and a half.) Remember to rinse and drain the beans first. 

The sun dried tomatoes need to be reconstituted to get tender enough for this soup. Instead of doing this in a separate dish, I just dropped them into my soup and let them float on top of the broth for 5 minutes or so to soak up the liquid.

When the tomatoes have softened, use a ladle to transfer them to your blender along with about half the beans and a cup of liquid. Pulse to puree until the tomatoes are broken down, then transfer everything back to your soup pot. This helps to thicken the soup but we left plenty of beans and veggies behind for texture.

Stir in the can of creamed corn, which will add more texture and a little sweetness.

Finally, stir in the lime juice and a handful of chopped cilantro. I abhor dried cilantro, and since it's only $.99 to buy a fresh bunch at my grocery store, I almost always have it on hand. Fresh cilantro would be included on my hurricane preparation list, it's that crucial in my kitchen.

That's it. I told you this was an easy one, right? Add a pinch or two of salt, some black pepper, and then let is simmer for a few minutes. Check and adjust your seasonings as necessary. Serve with warmed soft tortillas and a cold Mexican beer for a special treat!

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