(bean soup with baguette -- my favorite combination!)

(My darling ma and pa, in the park down our street, on their latest visit to Portland)

I am a lover of all soups -- dhal, creamy tomato with croutons, minestrone with lots of pesto, onion with a giant cheesy toast mess on top -- but it is the standard black bean that steals my heart, time and time again. It all started with a restaurant in Santa Barbara, the Paradise Cafe (we had our pre-wedding family dinner there), which was across the street from my Mom's then-workplace, the Santa Barbara News Press . . . While growing up with a reporter and then editor Mom had its perks: watching the big papers be printed on the large tubular rolls, curling up under her desk and examining the standard issue office carpeting, watching the illustrator draw on her big tilted desk -- the best part of my visiting was her lunch break, where we would walk next door and order black bean soup. We ate on the patio, in the near-perfect Southern California weather, and everyone who worked there knew my Mom. The whole thing felt very grown-up and ladylike, and I had my working-Mama all to myself for an hour. We would order lemonade and laugh and lap up our black bean soup with a nice baguette. It was perfect.

The coolest thing is that my Mom no longer works for that paper (and since her departure, the place has gone downhill) -- she's a teaches journalism and writing at the University in Santa Barbara. This means she has TIME. She can visit us in Portland, with my Dad and the dog -- she can linger in bed with a nice coffee and read the paper, she can chat with me on the way to work every morning, and prepare for her classes.
I think the reason I love black bean soup has a lot to do with those little-girl lunch dates -- sure it's healthy and vaguely Mexican in its flavor profile, two aspects that I love in any meal -- but I'm positive the roots of my black bean soup adoration have more to do with the memories than the actual taste. Funny how that works. History. Memory. Family. Food -- it's all so intertwined and lovely.

Do you have a favorite thing you ate with someone from your childhood?

Black Bean Soup
Adapted from Veganomicon

serves 6-8

1 lb. dried black beans, soaked overnight

6 c water
2 bay leaves

pinch of baking soda (I used this, although haven't in the past and didn't notice any difference)
2 medium-sized onions, diced

8 cloves garlic, minced (the original recipe calls for 4)
1 red pepper, diced

1 jalepeno pepper, finely diced

1 celery stalk, diced

1 carrot, diced
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin

2 tsps dried oregano

1 tsp dried thyme

1 heaping tsp chili powder (I added this to recipe)

1 tbsp vinegar (I used apple cider, it was fine)

2 tsps salt
a lot of freshly ground pepper
3- 4 c vegetable stock (I used 3, I like my soup thick)

For garnish: small tomatoes sliced, fresh herb such as cilantro, basil or parsley (I used basil from the garden), a dollop of sour cream, fresh lime wedges, diced red onion would be nice too.

Prepare the beans: Drain the soaked beans, rinse again, and place the beans in a very large stock pot. Pour in the 6 cups of water and add the bay leaves and baking soda (or don't add the baking soda). Cover and bring to a boil, boil for 3 minutes, and then lower the heat to medium-low. Simmer for 1- 2 hours, until the beans are tender. Take out the bay leaves.

When the beans are finishing cooking, the last 30 minutes or so, you can ready the vegetables. Preheat a large skilled over medium heat. Saute the onion and bell pepper, cooking until soft (about 10 minutes). Then add the jalapeno, celery and carrot, cook another 5 minutes and remove from heat. Add the garlic to the veggie mixture at this point. When the beans are done, stir in the vegetables plus the spices and vegetable stock. Cover the pot, heat until boiling, then lower the heat to medium-low and partially-cover the pot and simmer for about 30-40 more minutes. Remove from heat and add the vinegar (you may like a little more vinegar for punchyness). Season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish it up!

* Note: this soup tastes better the next day, when all the flavors have melded. And, it welcomes fresh summer add-ins such as corn or fresh green peas. yummy.


  1. they match in their stripe-y outfits! darling.

  2. leela! i'm going to attempt and make a variation of this! thailand doesn't have tortillas (or i haven't found them yet), but I did manage to find some dry black beans. I'M SO EXCITED. black bean soup is a mega-food of my childhood, we had it at least once a week and I loved the cold leftovers the next day. Eating here is grand, but I have to admit I need a little mexi-cali fusion to be totally content.
    I'll tell you how it turns out!