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Eric Akis: Cuban-style black bean soup offers comfort on chilly days

This Cuban-style black bean soup is rich with vegetables and seasonings and topped with tangy lime crema.
Cuban-style Black Bean Soup is delicious when topped with tangy lime crema. ERIC AKIS

In my last column, humble chickpeas were simmered in a Caribbean-style curry. Today, another pulse, moderately priced black beans, takes the stage in a soup Cuban in style.

To make it, what in Cajun/Creole cooking is often referred to as the holy trinity, onions, bell peppers and celery are sautéed in oil. Other ingredients, such as jalapeño pepper, garlic, spices and oregano, are then stirred in, creating a flavourful base for the soup.

Stock, which could be vegetable or chicken, is then added, along with canned black beans and some cubed potato, which helps to thicken the soup. The soup is then simmered until the vegetables and beans are very tender.

The final step in making the soup is to puree it, which could be done in a food processor or blender, or right in the pot with an immersion (hand) blender.

After ladling this aromatic, comforting soup into bowls, it’s further enhanced by topping it with chopped cilantro, diced red onion and lime crema. The latter is a tangy sour cream mixture that works well with the nicely spiced, rich flavour of the soup. You could also top the soup in other ways; see the Eric’s options part of the recipe for details.

Cuban-style Black Bean Soup with Lime Crema

Pureed black bean soup, rich with vegetables and seasonings, ladled into bowls and topped with tangy lime crema. I like to serve the soup with crusty rolls or cornbread.

Preparation time: 40 minutes

Cooking time: about 30 minutes

Makes: four to five servings

For the lime crema:

1/2 cup sour cream

2 Tbsp mayonnaise

1 tsp finely grated lime zest

2 tsp fresh lime juice

• pinches ground cumin, granulated sugar and salt

For the soup:

2 Tbsp olive oil

1/2 cup diced red onion (see Note)

1/2 cup diced celery

1/2 cup diced green bell pepper

1 medium or large jalapeño pepper, halved lengthwise, seeded and chopped

2 large garlic cloves, chopped

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp smoked paprika (see Note)

1 tsp dried oregano

4 cups vegetable or chicken stock

1 (19 oz./540 mL) can black beans, drained well, rinsed and drained again (see Eric’s options)

1 cup peeled yellow-fleshed potatoes (cut into 3/4-inch cubes; about 1 medium potato)

• salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

• finely chopped red onion and chopped cilantro, to taste, for garnish

Make lime crema by combining its ingredients in a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate until needed.

To make soup, pour oil into a medium pot set over medium, medium-high heat (my pot was eight inches wide and four inches tall). Add the 1/2 cup red onion, celery and bell pepper and cook and stir until softened, about three to four minutes. Mix in the jalapeño pepper, garlic, cumin, paprika and oregano and cook and stir one minute more.

Add the stock, black beans and potatoes, and then bring the soup to a gentle simmer (small bubbles should just break on the surface). Now adjust heat, as needed, to maintain that gentle simmer. Simmer soup, uncovered, until vegetables and beans are very tender, about 20 minutes.

Puree the soup in a food processor or blender, or in the pot with an immersion (hand) blender. Set the soup back on the heat, return to a simmer, and then taste and season with salt and pepper, as needed.

To serve, ladle the soup into bowls, top with a dollop of the lime crema and some finely chopped red onion and cilantro, and enjoy.

Eric’s options: Instead of lime crema, you could simple top the soup with a dollop of sour cream and thick yogurt. Beyond chopped red onion and cilantro, other things you could top the soup with include grated or crumbled cheese, such Monterey Jack, aged cheddar, goat cheese or feta, small cubes of avocado, sliced green onion, and diced fresno peppers or red bell peppers.

Note: Diced in this recipe means to cut into 1/4- to 1/2-inch cubes. Smoked paprika is sold in bottled spice/herb aisle of most supermarkets. It could be replaced with regular paprika, but the soup will lose its pleasing, mildly smoky taste.

Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.

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