Black Bean Soup & Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread / by Alice Zhao


With the leaves just starting to turn colors and Halloween candies stocked on store shelves, this signals to me the end of summer and the arrival of fall. Wait, was summer even here?? Anyway, whats a better way to start the season than with a hot pot of hearty black bean soup. Inspired by Indian As Apple Pie's crockpot recipes, I decided to finish off the black beans in my pantry and some fresh tomatoes my parents gave us from their garden. I love a quality black bean soup and found this recipe on epicurious.com that also called for some chilies. Plus, this gave me the opportunity to use some of the new dried ancho chilies that I picked up from our local Mexican grocery store. Score!
Ingredients (copied from epicurious.com)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin (I used 1 teaspoon of cumin, 1 teaspoon of coriander... just because?)
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons chopped jalapeño chile with seeds, divided (I also used my 1 dried ancho chili instead, which was soaked, seeded and then chopped)
  • 2 15- to 16-ounce cans black beans, undrained (I soaked my dried black beans overnight)
  • 1 15-ounce can petite diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1 1/2 cups low-salt chicken broth

Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrot, and garlic; sauté until vegetables begin to soften, about 6 minutes. Mix in cumin and 1 teaspoon jalapeño. Add beans, tomatoes with juice, and broth; bring soup to boil. Reduce heat to medium, cover, and cook until carrots are tender, about 15 minutes. Transfer 3 cups of soup to blender and puree until smooth. Return puree to pot. Simmer soup until slightly thickened, about 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and remaining 1 teaspoon jalapeño, if desired. (Here is where I just transferred the sauteed onions and spices and beans, tomatoes and brought into a crockpot and let it reduce slowly over time. My beans were taking extremely long to soften, so I let it sit on low overnight in the crockpot which also allows the beans to really absorb all the flavors of the soup.)

Jared was also craving some yankee cornbread to go with the soup so I pulled up a Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread recipe by Ina Gartner off foodtv.com. I've used several of her recipes before and she has not failed me yet!

Ingredients (by Ina Garten)

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour (I reduced this to 2 cups)
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal (I increased this to 2 cups to have more cornmeal taste)
  • 1/4 cup sugar (I upped this to 1/2 cup to suit Jared's Yankee cornbread tastes)
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 cups milk (I reduced the amount of milk to 1 cup and added a half cup of sour cream to guarantee a moist cornbread)
  • 3 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted, plus extra to grease the pan (pretty sure it's ok to reduce this to 1.5 sticks or less!)
  • 8 ounces aged extra-sharp Cheddar, grated, divided (I used normal mild cheddar)
  • 1/3 cup chopped scallions, white and green parts, plus extra for garnish, 3 scallions (I loved the scallions, so next time I'd add more!)
  • 3 tablespoons seeded and minced fresh jalapeno peppers (mine was mild since I washed all the seeds, don't be afraid to add more)

Directions

Combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the milk, eggs, and butter. With a wooden spoon, stir the wet ingredients into the dry until most of the lumps are dissolved. Don't overmix! Mix in 2 cups of the grated cheddar, the scallions and jalapenos, and allow the mixture to sit at room temperature for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 by 13 by 2-inch baking pan.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top, and sprinkle with the remaining grated Cheddar and extra chopped scallions. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool and cut into large squares. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Both of these recipes resulted in a really great comfort dinner (plus a very tasty lunch the next day!). I suppose if this is what it means to become vegetarian, I can handle it =)