Last week, we to back from our first mid-winter beach vacation. It was also a first-ever for me and Otto. I joked that I had to wait 35 years to have one, and here’s Otto getting one at 18 months!I don’t have much time to go into details–Mexico in a house with a bunch of friends/family and their kids and lots of time to do nothing at all is all that’s important for now–but let’s just say it was complete bliss. The feeling of aaaaah across all of our faces all week long, to say nothing of being off of snowsuit duty, was worth it.
And last Saturday, at about 9:31 PM when a cold wind whipped against us as we walked out of Newark Airport to a car, it was back to reality. Adam and I let out a collective ‘ugh’ and Otto was more vocal with his ‘aaaaaaaagh’ (not to be confused with the aforementioned ‘aaaah’).
Sometime the next day I got to thinking how it should be part of my vacation planning to make sure I have ingredients for something good waiting for us at home. In the case of coming home from Mexico, that should be tortillas, the best fish sticks we can find, a head of red cabbage, limes, some sour cream, and sriracha sauce. That’s all it takes to make some pretty acceptable fish tacos, which we could have eaten every single day we were on vacation. I wasn’t so organized, of course, so I had to run out and buy everything but the cabbage (did you ever notice that red cabbages keep for weeks if not months, even as you cut away little slivers? Love that about them..).
Along with my fish tacos, I made a big pot of black bean soup. I like to think of this as the soup that bridged the gap between our warm-weather lunch and dinner favorite and the wind/rain/snow/finally-hint-of-spring that we got this week. It’s also something that can be made with a bunch of pantry staples for all of about $5. Which is good because we’ll have to pinch pennies to make this happen again next year–beach vacays don’t come cheap!
This recipe is based on a few that I had. One was from my cousin Juli’s Junior League of Houston cookbook; it was for smooth black bean soup and that’s where I got the idea to go with minimal vegetables, tomato paste, and scallions. Other recipes call for carrots, peppers, and much diced tomatoes, but I really wanted something that could be pureed and not be too fibrous in the end. This recipe didn’t call for too many seasonings, and I’m guessing that’s the case because it did call for bouillon cubes and beef stock. So then I went to look at other recipes and found this one, which is how I determined what spices and herbs to use. I also followed the directions to cook the beans in the slow cooker first, then add the rest a few hours later. I stuck with water to keep the soup vegan, but you could use stock, if you’d like. And one last thing I did with this recipe is based on something I saw some chefs do in Mexico (we were so lucky to have ‘house chefs’ we could hire to come and treat us to home-cooked dinners!): the black beans they made were so simple but flavorful…they just simmered them in a whole onion that was quartered. Again, all the flavor but none of the added bulk of the onions to get in the way of the smooth beans. Continue reading