It’s has been quite lively at the Melamed household these last few weeks with the kids home every other week. The city schools are very generous with vacation days and by Passover both the teachers and pupils are practically in mini retirement. Which makes everyone happy but the parents. After the spring holidays which include Passover, Mimouna, Independence Day, Lag Baomer and Shavuot, some parents are on the verge of public nervous breakdowns. So it’s nice to know meals don’t have to be complicated.
Black Bean Soup
While tomato and peppers are indigenous to the Americas, cumin and coriander are old world spices. Today these ingredients have become integrated into both Latin American and North African cuisines, an indispensible part of their food culture. In this recipe I used tomato to accompany the black beans but other vegetables such as celery and parsnip can also be added. If the tomatoes are omitted add a squeeze of lemon or lime juice to liven things up.
2 cups black beans, soaked overnight
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper, finely diced
4 crushed tomatoes (I usually liquefy them in the food processor or grate them and discard the skin)
50 grams tomato paste (about three tablespoons)
Bunch of coriander, chopped. I love coriander so my bunch is always extra large.
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 smoked paprika
Chopped green onions
Diced red pepper
Olive or vegetable oil
Wash and drain the beans. Completely cover the beans with water and soak overnight. If you live in an area where the water is hard, add a pinch of baking powder to the soaking liquid. The following day, drain and put the beans in a pot. Add water so that it comes a few cm above the level of the beans. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat. Cook until the beans are soft and beginning to disintegrate. Many cooks blend part of the beans but if the beans are cooked for a bit longer this step can be skipped. Add more water if necessary and stir periodically so the beans don’t stick to the bottom.
Meanwhile fry the chopped onions in a few tablespoons of oil until golden brown. It is best to do this in a cast iron pan over very low heat to intensify the flavors.
Add the red bell peppers and sauté for a few minutes. On low heat, add the garlic and stir, making sure it does not burn. Add the tomato paste and heat until it releases its aroma. Pour the mixture to the pot of black beans. Add the crushed tomatoes. Cook on low for about 30-40 minutes until all the ingredients have melded together. The soup should not be watery or so thick it sticks to the spoon. Either add more water or reduce a watery soup by cooking without the top. Add the spices; salt, pepper, paprika, cumin and mix well. Taste and adjust seasoning. I usually add more cumin. Add the chopped coriander and continue cooking for a few more minutes. Ladle into bowls and garnish with extra coriander, diced red pepper, green onions, sour cream and guacamole.
Here is a picture from last Thursday’s Lag Ba’Omer, with dozens of little children running between the flames of the bonfires. It is another favorite holiday with Israeli kids which the parents can do without.