Confession time: I love Panera. One weekend in grad school when my internet was out and a paper was due, I essentially lived at the Panera around the corner. I sat for hours and hours at my little table, working on a grade-A citation analysis. The staff was awesome; after figuring out what was going on, they made sure to keep my coffee cup full for me, and didn’t make me abide by the 15 minute internet rule. As far as a weekend without internet could have gone, it was pretty good.
Even now that I don’t have horrid grad school papers to write, I still frequent Panera. And like a lot of people, I suspect, I’m sort of in an ordering rut. If it’s the summer, I’ll get the strawberry poppy seed salad. Otherwise, I’ll get the garden salad with the black bean soup. I’m pretty much obsessed with the soup. However, I’m faced with two problems. One, I no longer live around the corner from Panera. Two, they don’t always have it. So, as with many of my problems, I turned to my kitchen to solve it.
Before this recipe, I’d never worked with dried beans before. The canned ones are just so convenient! But enticed by the price and the fact that they wouldn’t take up nearly as much room in my limited cabinet space, I decided to pick up a bag of black beans and experiment. Oh, my goodness, I didn’t know what I was missing. Not only are they way easier to deal with than I had feared, but I was totally able to control the salt level, which is always a bonus in my book!
Anyway, the soup itself turned out really well. It was nice and cumin-y, just like what you’d get at Panera. My broth was a bit thinner than theirs, but I suspect using an immersion blender to actually puree some of the beans rather than just mashing them would fix that. Other than that, it was like being at a Panera, only instead of a salad I got a quesadilla (bonus!!). Cheap, easy, and delicious: I will be making this again!
Black Bean Soup
- 8 oz dried black beans, picked over and soaked overnight (or quick soaked)
- 3 cups vegetable broth
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 2 stalks celery, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ cup red pepper, diced
- 1 tsp cumin
- ½ tsp salt (you might want to reduce this if you use canned beans or stock that has salt in it)
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- Combine pre-soaked beans and about 1/3 of your onion in a medium saucepan and cover with broth by two inches. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a strong simmer and cook for 45 minutes – an hour, or until beans are soft.
- When the beans are nearly done, in a separate pot, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Sauté remaining onion and celery for about five minutes, until onion is translucent. Add garlic, red pepper, and cumin, and sauté for another minute or so until fragrant.
- Add black beans in their cooking liquid to the large pot, and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 20 – 30 minutes, until beans are very tender.
- Using a potato masher, smash beans until you reach your desired consistency. Stir in lemon juice, adjust seasonings, and simmer for 5 minutes.
- Serve hot.