Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Black Bean Soup for Book Club by guest blogger, Mom

My book club has a strict rule limiting food served at meetings to soup, bread and cookies in the winter and salad, bread and cookies in summer. For the January meeting at my house, I decided on black bean soup, hearty fare for a cold, snowy night. I combined recipes from several cookbooks and substituted canned beans for dried ones. It seemed simple enough. Fortunately, I made the soup a day ahead. To my horror, the initial result was watery and bland – disgusting and embarrassing. My daughters, both such good cooks, sometimes tease me that they must have been adopted – this idea was mentioned on the Sisters Cook blog when Margaret discovered that I didn’t own a spring form pan. I was beginning to think they might be right – I really was a hopeless cook.
Panic-stricken, I called my friend Abby. Abby owned a restaurant for many years and now has a catering business. She’s an excellent cook.
Abby’s advice (good for a wide variety of culinary disasters):
1. Calm down.
2. Add 3 more cans of black beans.
3. Add some tomato paste and more salt.
4. Gently sauté more onions and garlic, and add to the soup.
5. Cook it down a little.
6. Taste it, taste it, taste it!
I was a wreck, my hands were trembling, but I followed these instructions, and by the next morning, the soup had improved enormously – almost like magic, and what a relief! I was still a little rattled, so Abby (a great friend as well as a great cook) came over to taste the final product and reassure me that it was actually very good. And it was delicious, a big success. Nearly everyone had second helpings with only a cup or two for leftovers. To go with the soup, I made Fanny Farmer’s Rich Corn Bread and the Silver Palate Three Ginger Cookies. People left the meeting asking for recipes, always a good sign. Perhaps those girls weren’t adopted after all . . .
The book was Cannery Row by John Steinbeck.

Black Bean Soup for 12

1 c. olive oil
7 c. diced yellow onions
16 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
10 cans black beans
2 smoked ham hocks
12 quarts water
5 TB ground cuminseed
2 TB dried oregano
6 bay leaves1 TB salt
1 1/2 TB salt
1TB ground pepper
2 or 3 large pinches cayenne
12 TB chopped parsley
2 medium sweet red peppers diced
1/2 c. dry sherry
2 TB brown sugar2 TB lemon juice
2 or 3 TB tomato paste
Chicken broth
Creme Fraiche or sour cream

Heat oil in a soup pot. Add onions, cook over low heat until tender about 10 minutes. For the last few minutes add the garlic.

Add ham hock and water. Stir in 4 TB cuminseed, the oregano, bay leaves, salt, pepper, cayenne and 2 TB of the parsley. Bring to boil, reduce heat and cook uncovered for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Liquid will theoretically be reduced by 3/4.

Remove ham hock to a plate. Cool slightly, then pull of any remaining meat with your fingers and shred fine. Return meat to pot.

Add beans, cook covered about 30 minutes.

Add remaining parsley, sweet red pepper, remaining cuminseed, sherry, brown sugar, lemon juice and tomato paste.
Simmer another 30 minutes.

Add some chicken broth if the soup seems too thick.

TASTE the soup! Correct seasoning (salt, pepper, cayenne, perhaps more cuminseed.)

Serve very hot in heated bowls. Garnish with a dollop of sour cream. Serve guacamole and grated cheese as optional garnishes.

Guacamole from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook

4 ripe avocados
3 Tb fresh squeezed lemon juice
8 dashes Tabasco
1/2 cup small-diced red onion
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp fresh ground pepper
1 medium tomato small-diced (I made this in winter so I substituted small diced sweet red pepper.)

Halve the avocados, remove the pits and scoop the flesh into a bowl.
Immediately add the lemon juice, Tabasco, onion, garlic, salt and pepper. Toss well. Using a sharp knife, slice through the avocados in the bowl until they are diced. Add the tomatoes (or peppers.)

Mix well. TASTE for salt and pepper.

Rich Corn Cake from The Fanny Farmer Cookbook

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Butter a 9 x 9 pan.

3/4 cup yellow corn meal or polenta
1 cup flour
2 Tb sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. cream of tartar
3/4 tsp. salt

Mix dry ingredients together in large bowl.

2 eggs well beaten
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup whole milk
4 TB butter, melted

Combine eggs, sour cream, milk and melted butter together in a separate bowl. Mix well.

Add quickly to dry ingredients. Stir just to mix. (Don't worry if there are a few streaks of dry ingredients.) Spoon into pan. Bake 20 minutes.

Three Ginger Cookies from The Silver Palate

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1 egg
2 1/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 TB finely chopped fresh ginger root
1/2 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger

Cream butter and brown sugar in large mixer bowl. Beat in molasses, then the egg.
Sift flour, ground ginger, baking soda and salt together. Stir into butter mixture with wooden spoon. until blended.
Add fresh and crystallized gingers. stir until well mixed.
Refrigerate dough at least 2 hours or overnight.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease cookie sheets with butter.
Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place about 2 inches apart on cookie sheets.
Bake until browned, approximately 10 minutes. Cool a few minutes on sheets for easier removal.
Remove to wire rack to cool completely.

3 1/2 to 4 dozen cookies

No comments: