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We recently returned from a trip to New York visiting friends and family. We also played tourist: taking in the view from the Empire State Building by night, visiting Central Park’s bright fall leaves, and sampling local delicacies. We ate bagels, banh mi, brunches, even a local take on poutine and a delicious meal at Prune.

By the time we returned, I was ready to eat only rice, beans, and vegetables for a week. Often after a holiday, vacation, or work trip, I crave simple, healthy food. I lay off the booze for a few days–no glass of wine with dinner or beer to unwind–and overcompensate for buttery and salty restaurant meals with lighter, greener fare.

avocado salsa

This soup was the result of my post-NYC craving. It’s smoky and spicy and sweet and salty all at once. The chipotle peppers and adobo sauce (I’m still working my way through the can I opened for this) add a kick of spice, and sherry at the beginning of the cooking deepens the flavor. The soup is mostly based on this recipe from Food and Wine, and the chipotle idea I borrowed from Deb at Smitten Kitchen.

I’ve been eating chipotle peppers in everything ever since I made this soup. Chipotle eggs for a weekend breakfast. Chipotle peppers in mac and cheese. Chipotle sweet potato tacos. Quesadillas with chipotle sour cream. It’s the first can I’ve ever opened. My cultural association with chipotle is the McDonald’s-owned burrito brand, famous for their mildly crowd-pleasing burritos, which, so far as I can tell, contain no real chipotle peppers. The name has been co-opted, but the real deal, original peppers are a Mexican grocery dream.

black bean soup with avocado salsa

chipotle black bean soup with sweet potatoes and avocado salsa
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type: soup
author: robin, saladfordinner.com
prep time: 15 mins
cook time: 15 mins
total time: 30 mins
serves: 4
Smoky chipotle peppers add a kick to classic black bean soup.
Ingredients
  • 3 15 oz cans black beans
  • 1 tablespoon chipotle peppers from a can
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 4 cups water or chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup sherry
  • 1 medium sweet potato or yam, peeled and diced
  • 1 tsp fresh black pepper
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 2 avocados
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
Instructions
  1. Blend half the beans with about 1 cup water or stock until pureed. Set aside.
  2. Heat vegetable oil over medium heat, and add onions, garlic, and pinch of salt. Cook without browning until onions are soft, about 5 minutes. Add the sherry and turn up the heat. Cook until sherry is reduced by half.
  3. Add the chopped chipotle, remaining stock, pureed beans, and diced sweet potato. Simmer until sweet potato is almost cooked through, but not quite about 8 minutes. Add remaining beans and Worcestershire sauce, and simmer for another 5 minutes or so.
  4. Meanwhile, make the salsa by combining avocado, lime juice, cilantro, and salt to taste.
  5. Serve soup topped with salsa.
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I am a convert to the charms of Rancho Gordo beans. They’re creamy and flavorful, don’t require soaking, and cook to perfection in under an hour. They’re even local. What’s not to love?

The price tag, I suppose. These buggers cost $6 a pound, while normal beans cost maybe $2, but usually more like $0.99. I don’t cook beans often, though, so it’s not a tough cost to justify, especially when a pound stretches over many meals.

flageolet

Beans have a special place in my past. When I first moved to Washington, DC after college to work for the government and non-profits, I didn’t have much money. It was years before I felt comfortable spending more than $20-$30 per week on groceries. I survived for several years eating a diet heavily dependent on beans, rice, cabbage, and sweet potatoes. Beans and tofu were my primary source of protein in those years, crafted in more permutations than I care to recall.

As I’ve grown my grown-up income and therefore my food budget, my shopping habits have diversified. I’ve relegated beans to “that protein in kale soup”, “a nice extra to throw on quick quesadillas”, or “the once a year bean dip batch”. This dish helps beans level up to sophistication, with the sweet tomato accent and spicy arugula playing off each other and the creamy beans. It’s a perfect fall dinner, at least here, where you can still find straggling tomatoes in the farmer’s markets even in early November.

roasted cherry tomatoes
ragout

flageolet bean ragout with roasted tomatoes, arugula, and sausage
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type: entree
author: saladfordinner.com
prep time: 30 mins
cook time: 30 mins
total time: 1 hour
serves: 4
Tender white beans simmered in olive oil with garlic and spring onion, then tossed with sweet roasted tomatoes, savory sausage, and spicy arugula.
Ingredients
  • 1 cup dried flageolet, navy, or cannelini beans (any white bean will do) or 2 15 oz. cans
  • 1/4 of a white onion, peeled
  • 1 carrot, chopped coarsely
  • 3 sprigs of thyme
  • salt
  • 2 spring onions or leeks
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped finely
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, roasted (instructions below)
  • 1 lb sweet Italian sausage, optional
  • 1/4 lb arugula
Instructions
  1. Prepare the beans (if using dried beans): Cover beans with water, about an inch above where the beans stop in the pot. Add the onion, carrot, and thyme, and bring to a boil. Turn down heat, and simmer until beans are tender, anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours, depending on your beans.
  2. Roast the tomatoes: Preheat oven to 375. Slice tomatoes in half lengthwise and toss with 2-3 T olive oil, 1 tsp sugar, 1 tsp salt and ground black pepper. Arrange seed-side up on baking sheet, and put them in the oven for 30-40 minutes, until they are sweetly roasted.
  3. Cook the sausage: Remove the sausage from its casing and add to a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat with 1 T olive oil. Brown the sausage, breaking it up into smaller pieces as it cooks.
  4. Once sausage is mostly browned, turn the heat down to medium low, and add the sliced spring onions or leeks and remaining olive oil. After 3-4 minutes, add the garlic, and cook until onions or leeks are translucent.
  5. Add the beans and tomatoes, and stir to coat with olive oil. Simmer for several minutes longer.
  6. Remove pot from heat. Mix in the arugula.
  7. Serve warm with crusty bread.
Notes

If using normal dried beans, I like to soak them overnight before cooking. I used Rancho Gordo beans, which they say don’t require soaking (and they’re right!). They cook much faster, have a creamier texture, and are more delicious than most dried beans, but also have the price tag to prove it. Canned beans also work just fine if you don’t have the time to cook your own.

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