Black Bean Tortilla Soup

Even though it postponed our trip to the pumpkin patch, the rain last Sunday was refreshing, and it put us in the mood for soup! We have so many dried beans in the pantry, I finally decided it was time to make a conscious effort to remember to soak them. I was envisioning a black bean soup that was brothy and had whole beans (because a pureed soup sounded like a pain in the butt because I don’t have one of those hand-held immersion blenders). Pleased with the aroma from adding some chopped chipotle chiles in adobo, I decided that some crispy fried tortilla strips and cool avocado would be the perfect topping – transforming my soup from plain black bean soup to a Mexican-inspired black bean tortilla soup. It’s definitely not a quick dinner, but with some planning ahead, it’s definitely worth the comfort that it brings! Levi loved “helping” me stir the soup occasionally throughout its 2 1/2 hours of cooking time. It serves 3-4.

Black Bean Tortilla Soup

(Adapted from this recipe on Epicurious, originally from the Dec. 2004 issue of Gourmet Magazine)

3/4 cup dried black beans (5 oz), picked over and rinsed
2 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped
2 small leeks, trimmed, and white and light green parts chopped
3 small carrots, diced
1/2 a large red bell pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 chipotle peppers in adobo, chopped
a California bay leaf
dried oregano
ground cumin
ground coriander
freshly ground black pepper
6 cups broth (1 1/2 quarts)
3 small tomatoes, diced
(skip this unless you can still find good, sweet, end-of-summer tomatoes)
1/3 cup dry pasta (small shapes work best; we used small shells)
2 corn torillas
vegetable oil for frying
1 avocado, cubed

  • Cover beans with cold water by 3 inches in a bowl and soak at room temperature  for at least 8 hours or overnight. (You can also use this quick-soak method: Cover the dried beans with 3 inches of cold water in a large saucepan, bring it to a boil and cook, uncovered, over moderate heat for 2 minutes. Then remove from heat and cover pan. Soak beans, covered, 1 hour).
  • Cook bacon in a large pot over medium high heat until golden. Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel to drain. Remove some of the bacon fat from the pot, but leave enough (about 1/2 a Tablespoon) so the bottom of the pot is lightly coated.
  • Return pan to medium-high heat. Add the bacon back to the pot. Add the leeks, carrots, bell pepper, garlic, chipotle chiles, bay leaf, oregano, cumin, coriander, paprika, and pepper, and saute, stirring frequently, until leek is softened, about 5 minutes. Add a little olive oil if the bottom of the pan begins to look a little dry.
  • Add beans, broth, and tomatoes. Simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally, until beans are very tender, about 2 1/2 hours. In the last 6 minutes of cooking time, add the pasta (if using), as well as 1 cup of water. Bring soup back up to a simmer and cook until pasta is done.
  • Cut the corn tortillas into strips and fry in vegetable oil over medium heat until crispy. Transfer to paper towels to drain and sprinkle with a little salt.
  • Ladle the soup into bowls, and top with the fried tortilla strips and cubed avocado.

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