Tuesday, August 28, 2007


I’ve decided to open this post simply with: ‘this one’s for Jono’. As you know, I have been struggling with the opening line for my posts; this line even comes up as ‘fragment’ on my spell check (or grammar)! I’m going to ignore it and tell you the story, a few weeks ago we had a mini farewell dinner party for Ceara, a girl from work, who was here for the summer. Turns out Ceara, being from California, really missed Mexican food. So I compromised and offered to make her a Latin American themed dinner party instead. We had ‘sopa negra’ or black soup in english as a starter, and they loved it! (especially Jono). Sopa negra is a black bean soup that takes some time, but it is well worth it. I just remembered my 9th grade English teacher explaining to me how I had a problem with ‘run-on sentences’, I wonder why.

The four things you must remember about beans are, one – soak them over night, two – don’t boil them, they don’t like it, they’ll just stay hard, three – you need to sort and wash them BEFORE you soak them (by sorting I mean looking for tiny pebbles disguised as beans), and four – canned beans are just nasty, so use the real thing. Also very important, where do you find them? In France, Asian (not Japanese though) and African markets usually carry them, Indian stores too. And if you live in Paris, there is a store that sells beans behind ‘La Bourse’, where they have every imaginable type of grain.

The reason this one is ‘for Jono’ is because he asked me for the recipe one of these days and I said – ‘I’ll make the soup, post the recipe, AND I’ll bring you some’- turns out I calculated the amount of beans wrong and we ate most of it, so I didn’t bring any soup to Jono and forgot to say anything about it, and for all I know he thinks of black beans everytime he looks at me, so Jono, I hope you like it, and next time I promise I’ll bring you some. And for the rest of you here it is!


2 cups of black beans ‘sorted, washed and soaked in water over night’
1 quart of water
2 tablespoon of olive oil
½ an onion
2 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon of chopped red sweet pepper
2 tablespoons of chopped cilantro
1 red chili pepper chopped (no seeds!) or more than one that's up to you!

-Toppings –

Diced tomatoes
Sour cream
Diced avocados
Hard-boiled or poached eggs
And/or anything else you like!

Recapitulating, this is how you deal with the beans:

1. Measure the two cups.
2. Go through your beans and take out discolored/shriveled beans and the occasional pebble.
3. Wash them with water.
4. Rinse them.
5. Place them in a container or pot with four cups of water. (use a big pot, it’s better).
6. Cover them and, leave them over night.
7. The next day the beans will have absorbed a fair amount of water, and the water will be a dark purple, it’s ok! you’ve washed the beans, that’s the bean’s own pigment. Cook them in this water and the result will be a ‘blacker’ BLACK soup.
8. To cook them add a couple more cups of water to the beans, place your pot on the stove on high, and once the water is boiling lower the temperature to the minimum. Cover and let simmer until they are soft.

* All beans are different, the cooking time always varies, so keep an eye on them, check them every hour or so, and make sure they don’t run out of water. Also, if the beans have been sitting on the shelf for a very long time they will take more time to cook.

Once the beans are done, chop all your vegetables finely, and cook them over medium heat with the olive oil. While your vegetables are cooking, mash some of the beans (if you like a thicker soup) with a food processor or blender (I just use the bottom of a heavy mug, and do it in the same pot), if you use a food processor of blender, take about a cup of beans with some of the liquid (add more water if you need to), and return it to the pot. At this point the vegetables should be caramelized, add them to the soup together with the cilantro. Season with salt. Let the soup simmer for half an hour, and serve.

* The mashed beans have a grayish color, when you put them in the pot with the rest of the soup, if it doesn't look black (as black soup should), don’t despair, this is the reason you need to simmer for an extra half hour. Beans are not hard to make, you just need to know the tricks. (Jono is learning to cook, since this recipe IS for him I’m being thorough).

You can top this soup with anything you like, in Costa Rica, if the soup is not too thick, they poach some eggs in the soup and serve one egg per person, this is really good if you want add MORE protein to this dish (beans a great source of protein on their own). I served mine, with tomatoes, avocados, and sour cream. Buen Provecho! (enjoy! or bon appétit! in spanish).

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