"In the New World, the remains of beans were found in a Peruvian Andean cave … Mentions of black beans show up in the writings of ancient Mayans," wrote my editor Joe Yonan, in "Cool Beans: The Ultimate Guide to Cooking with the World's Most Versatile Plant-Based Protein."
Traditional Brazilian feijoada marries the velvety bean with smoky pork and a crunchy topping of toasted cassava flour. Colombian and Venezuelan cooks season black beans with onions, garlic, sweet peppers and bay leaves. Peruvians add vinegar for frijoles escabechados.
Mexican cooks infuse frijoles negros de olla with chiles for a touch of heat. Throughout Central America, cooks top stewed black beans with chopped raw onion, cilantro or simple salsas. Cuban black beans often start with a sofrito and are especially pungent with garlic and cilantro. Haitian cooks add fresh coconut and puree the stewed beans into the sauce known as sos pwa nwa.
This recipe, for coconut and black bean soup with a mango and avocado salsa, is an homage to this legacy.
It starts with sauteed onions and garlic, plus tomato paste and cumin - a sort of cheater sofrito. Cooked or canned black beans go in next, along with canned coconut milk. The inky broth turns a stylish gray and is tinted pale scarlet with a bit of ground chiles.
Puree half (or more) of this mixture, then be sure to heat it through and season it well. You may wish to add more salt or spice, a squeeze of lime or splash of vinegar.
Then, referencing Mexican and Central American traditions and Caribbean fruits, I suggest a salsa topping, a slightly sweet and acidic salad of mango, avocado, red onion, cilantro and lime juice. It's lush and bright and offsets the density of this satisfying soup.
Coconut Black Bean Soup With Mango-Avocado Salsa
MAKES: 2 to 3 servings; makes about 5 cups soup
ACTIVE TIME: 20 minutes | Total time: 40 minutes
This vegan black bean soup is flavorful as-is thanks to coconut milk, but it gets even better when dressed with a mango-avocado salsa.
I really like this soup with the salsa >> but if you can't find ripe mangos or avocados, skip it and top the soup with chopped cilantro and a squeeze of lime. It might also be nice with a pico de gallo or other tomato or tomatillo-based salsa.
Not in the mood for soup? >> The beans, pureed or not, are great over rice, with roasted winter squash or sweet potatoes, or in tacos or burritos.
Out of black beans? >> Use pinto or kidney instead.
If you have leftover soup, use it to make enfrijoladas: Mash or puree the beans with a splash of water or orange juice. Keep the puree warm. Lightly toast corn tortillas and dip them into the bean puree before folding them onto plates and serving with your choice of salsa, hot sauce, cheese or crema.
Storage Notes: Leftover soup can be refrigerated in a covered container for up to 4 days.
For the salsa
• 1 small red onion (about 5 ounces)
• 1 ripe mango (about 8 ounces), peeled, pitted and diced
• 1 ripe avocado, peeled, pitted and diced
• 3 sprigs fresh cilantro, chopped
• 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice, plus more as needed
• Fine salt FOR THE SOUP
• 1 tablespoon coconut or vegetable oil
• 2 cloves garlic, minced or finely grated
• 2 tablespoons tomato paste
• 1 teaspoon ground cumin
• 1/2 teaspoon ground chiles or smoked or hot paprika
• Two (15-ounce) cans black beans, preferably no salt added, drained and rinsed (or 3 cups cooked black beans)
• One (13.5-ounce) can coconut milk, preferably light
• 3/4 cup water or vegetable stock
• 1/2 teaspoon fine salt, plus more as needed
Halve the onion. Grate one half on the large holes of a grater and set aside. Dice the other half.
Make the mango-avocado salsa: In a small bowl, combine the diced red onion, mango, avocado, cilantro and lime juice. Stir, and taste. Add more lime juice and/or a pinch of salt, if desired.
In a medium saucepan over high heat, heat the oil until it shimmers. Add the grated onion and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until it begins to look transparent and just starts to brown, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic, tomato paste, cumin and ground chiles or paprika, and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the black beans, coconut milk and water or broth. Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes. Add the salt, then taste, adding more, if needed.
Cook for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, then, using an immersion blender, partially puree the beans until the soup looks half creamy and half chunky, with some coconutty broth holding it all together. (To puree in a standing blender, using a ladle, transfer about half of the soup to a blender jar. Remove the vent in the blender's lid to allow steam to escape and loosely cover it with a towel to prevent splatter. Blend on low until smooth, then stir the pureed soup back into the pot.)
Ladle the soup into bowls, top with the mango salsa and serve, with extra salsa on the side.
Nutrition information per serving (1 2/3 cup soup), based on 3, with light coconut milk | Calories: 536; Total Fat: 20 g; Saturated Fat: 12 g; Cholesterol: 0 mg; Sodium: 411 mg; Carbohydrates: 74 g; Dietary Fiber: 16 g; Sugars: 16 g; Protein: 19 g.
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