Vegan sweet and sassy black bean soup recipe
Back in the day -- which was quite a few years ago -- a couple of friends and I met in my kitchen to collaborate on a dish we called South End Deep Root Chili, so named for the root canal one of those friends had endured earlier in the day. In fact, and in spite of its name, the chili was one of our finest creations, and to this day it's a favorite in my kitchen. This soup is an adaptation of the original chili recipe: more liquid, of course, and agave nectar to replace honey. If you don't want to use agave, go ahead and add a few teaspoons of brown sugar. Make the soup as hot and spicy as you like it, but don't omit the sweet or the lemon; they give this black bean soup its sass.
Vegan sweet and sassy black bean soup
2 cups unsweetened apple juice
2 cups diced onion
2 stalks celery, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 small jalapeño pepper, seeds and ribs removed, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 heaping tsps ground cumin
2-3 Tbsp chili powder, to taste (I like Penzeys Chili 3000; use your favorite blend)
3 cups cooked black beans (okay to use canned; rinse and drain)
4 cups vegetable stock (or half apple juice, half water)
4 tsp agave nectar
Juice of 1 lemon
A few shakes of hot sauce, or more to taste
1 14-oz can diced tomatoes, with juice
1/2 cup tiny pasta (tubettini, orzo, dittalini)
1/2 tsp salt (taste first if using storebought stock)
Fresh black pepper, to taste
Preheat a 5-quart heavy pot or Dutch oven on medium-high heat. Add apple juice and bring to a boil. Add onions and sauté, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add celery, carrots, jalapeño, garlic, cumin and chili powder. Continue stirring for 3 minutes. Add black beans, stock, agave, lemon juice, hot sauce and tomatoes. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure the beans don't stick.
Add pasta, salt and pepper, and continue cooking, covered, stirring frequently, until the pasta is cooked (8-10 minutes). Taste, and adjust seasoning with more lemon, agave, hot sauce, salt and pepper, as needed.
Serve hot. Can be made ahead; cool, cover and refrigerate or freeze.