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Sweet Potato Black Bean Soup

The other night my roommates and went out to eat at a real, sit-down restaurant , something we don't do very often with the state of our finances. It was a treat. I had the poblano peppers (quite good, if not great), but what I didn't have was more interesting.

The earnest waitperson (all good waitpeople convey earnestness, don't you think?) advised us that the soup of the day was Black Bean, Sweet Potato, Corn and Tomato, with Cilantro. Goodness, I thought, I have all those things at home, including fresh cilantro from the farmers' box that we get. I was curious to taste it, thinking that would guide me later, but didn't order it. Too much food and too little budget, after all.

However, this is what we had for dinner at home the next night:

Sweet Potato Black Bean Soup with Cilantro

1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced small (perhaps 1/2 to 3/4 cup)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp (more or less) chili powder

1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced small (perhaps 1-1/2 to 2 cups)
1 28 oz can petite-cut diced tomatoes
1 15 oz can sweet corn
1 15 oz can black beans
1 cup (maybe a bit more) water or chicken stock
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp (more or less) fresh cilantro, minced

In a large pan over low heat, saute the onion in the olive oil until it is soft. Add the minced garlic, saute briefly, then add the chili powder. Cook the powder briefly with the vegetables, then add the canned goods, sweet potatoes, salt and cilantro. Add sufficient water or stock to make a good soup consistency. Bring to a boil, turn down heat, and simmer until the sweet potatoes are tender, 20-30 minutes. Check seasonings; add another shake of chili powder if desired. Serve in bowls with a little fresh cilantro on top.

I actually made this in a crock pot, for about two hours on high. Super simple to make and very tasty.

I thought about using Rotel-style tomatoes, but I think the chilies would overwhelm the sweet potatoes and cilantro. Might try it that way, though, with the "mild" version.

Note that if you use water instead of stock, it's vegan. You could also skip the extra liquid and have a stew to be served over rice.

(I really have to start taking pictures for the recipes, but by the time I thought about it, the soup was gone!)

Lentils and Sausage

As promised on Facebook, last Friday night's dinner:

Lentil and Italian Sausage Soup

From the Nyack Farmers' Market:
  • 1 lb sweet Italian sausage (hot would also be good)
  • 1 or 2 onions, diced
  • 1 clove organic garlic
  • 4-5 ribs of organic celery, with leaves
  • 1 small bunch of organic carrots, or 3-4 large carrots
  • 1 bunch organic purple kale

From the grocery and pantry:
  • 1 lb organic dried lentils
  • 1 bottle lager
  • 1 can (or two) organic diced tomatoes
  • bay leaf
  • salt
  • pepper

From the garden:
  • several sprigs of thyme
  • a few basil leaves
  • sprig of oregano
  • sprig of rosemary
  • 1 bell pepper
  • tomatoes

Take a large pot, larger than you think you'll need, and heat a tablespoon or two of olive oil in it.

Remove casing from sausage, if desired, chunk it up into small pieces, maybe the size of half-inch meatballs, and saute in the oil over medium heat until it doesn't look raw anymore. Then toss in the onions, stir and cook until onions are soft but not brown. Mince the garlic and add to the onions. Cook for a minute or so.

Rinse off the lentils and toss into the pot. Add a bottle of lager, a couple of bottles of water, and the canned tomatoes, enough liquid to cover plus about an inch.

Tie the herbs with a bit of string or into cheesecloth and toss into the pot. Alternately, strip the leaves off the stems, mince all but the bay leaf and toss into the pot.

Bring pot up to a boil for a minute or so, then cover and reduce heat to simmer.

While it’s simmering, chop the carrots and celery into small slices. Mince the celery leaves. Dice the bell pepper. Toss each into the pot as they are chopped. If there are any garden tomatoes left, dice a couple and toss them in, too. Return to a simmer after each addition.

The kale you’ll need to clean in several changes of water, especially if it’s from the Farmers’ Market. Otherwise, you’ll be adding a lot of sand, dirt and grit to the pot. Once it’s clean, strip the leaves from the toughest part of the stem. Roll into cigar shapes, slice and slice again crosswise. Add them to the pot, too.

If it looks like it needs more liquid, add a little more water, broth, or beer, or another can of tomatoes. It should be soupy. Add salt and pepper to taste.

At this point, the lentils have been simmering for maybe 45 minutes to an hour. Cover and simmer another 45 minutes or so until both the lentils and kale are tender.

Fish out the bay leaf and the twiggy herbs, ladle into big bowls and serve.

We had some leftover rice, so I added a bit to the bowls. You could also add pasta, something like a small shell shape, in the last 20-30 minutes of cooking. Add the pasta (not too much) bring soup up to a boil, then return to a simmer.

Next time, I might use less water and more tomatoes, or even tomato juice. As usual, it will depend on what I have in the pantry.