Remember that time when I thought fall had arrived in Houston? The morning had a bit of a chill, despite daytime highs that were reminiscent of a typical Toronto summer’s day.
The extreme heat and humidity has somewhat abated, but without the change in the colour of the trees’ leaves, it still does not feel like fall. I continue to wear the same clothes I wore in the middle of the summer (aka short sleeves and shorts).
Although, I know the seasons are changing. The days are getting shorter. I can no longer photograph my dinner, after I return from work. Some days I am home earlier, but most days, I arrive home fairly late, after sunset. The sun is setting earlier, and earlier.
So after Rob made this absolutely delicious black bean soup, I knew I wanted to share it… but I had to photograph it before we finished it off. Instead of depriving Rob of his next dinner, I asked him to photograph it before he devoured the last serving. I mean, there are a few perks of working from home, and photographing meals during daylight is definitely one of them.
So… about this soup. Delicious! Loads of black beans and sweet potato chunks are simmered with cumin, oregano and allspice with a broth that is flavoured with red pepper paste (Rob’s creative substitute since we were all out of red bell peppers) and sun-dried tomatoes. Although the balsamic vinegar and lime juice make this special with the tang and acidity. The balsamic finish is definitely making a comeback in my kitchen, since it worked well with the white bean paprikash. Rob also opted to keep the black beans whole, instead of pureeing them. Thus, this was a bean stew instead of a bean soup.
While one might think I have a certain food photography style, it is truly a lazy affair. One camera and one lens. Photo from above and a few photos from the front. Easy, peasy and pretty fool-proof. As long as you can keep things in focus as you hover above the food. ;) Although the next photo shows you Rob’s signature in-your-face style:
The inspiration for this soup came from Dreena’s latest ecookbook, Plant-Powered 15, filled with 15 whole-foods vegan recipes without any oil or gluten. I know I have a few readers who are no-oil vegans, so this would be perfect for you. Even if you are not eating oil-free (like me!), you will still enjoy the bright flavours. As I have said before, I really like Dreena’s recipes. In particular, we adore her Lemon Mediterranean Lentil Salad, Jerk Chickpeas, Thai Chickpea Almond Curry, Tomato Lentil Cumin and Dill Soup and Thai Coconut Corn Stew.
Dreena’s ebook spans breakfast, oil-free salad dressings, mains like vegan burgers and even a few desserts. With the help of Nicole, there are gorgeous photos of each recipe. Instead of misleading you, Dreena has allowed me to share Nicole’s photo of the soup:
Dreena has already shared the recipe for Umami Almond, Quinoa, and Sundried Tomato Burgers, her cashew-based Wonder Spread and Sticky Almond Blondies as teasers for the cookbook. However, even more exciting is that she is graciously offering a copy of her ecookbook to two of my readers! Because this is an electronic version, it is open to anyone is the world! (Woohoo!) To be entered, please leave a comment here, telling me about your favourite Dreena recipe. If you haven’t made anything by Dreena yet, have a look through the table of contents of Plant-Powered 15 (or another one of her books/blog) and tell me what you want to cook the most. I will randomly select a winner on November 15, 2013. Good luck!
Note: I purchased my own copy of Dreena’s cookbook. I was under no obligation to share a review. The opinions expressed are entirely my own.
Black Bean and Sweet Potato Stew
Adapted, with permission, from Dreena’s Plant-Powered 15 (our changes noted in italics)
This soup has an irresistible quality, the flavors are deep and earthy with some sweetness from the potatoes. Don’t let the number of ingredients intimidate you – they build layers of flavor, but this soup is not at all difficult to make!
water coconut oil
1 1/2 – 1 3/4 cups chopped onion (one large onion)
1 tablespoon red pepper paste (Dreena’s recipe had 1 1/2 cups combination of chopped red peppers and green peppers)
handful of sundried tomatoes, chopped into bits (this is according to Rob)
1 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste (generous is good)
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 teaspoons dried oregano leaves
1/4 teaspoon allspice (rounded)
1/4 teaspoon (or less/more, to taste) Aleppo pepper flakes
4 medium – large cloves garlic, minced or grated
4 cups cooked black beans (Dreena’s recipe asked for 4 1/2 – 5 cups black beans (reserve 1 cup; this is three 14 or 15 oz cans)
3 cups water
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 – 1 teaspoon pure maple syrup
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 cups cubed (in small chunks, about 1/2″) yellow sweet potato (or can substitute white potato)
Chopped cilantro for serving
Chopped avocado for serving
In a large pot over medium-high heat, add
watercoconut oil, onions, red pepper paste, sun-dried tomatoes red and green peppers, salt and pepper, cumin seeds, oregano, allspice, and red pepper flakes. Let cook for 5-7 minutes until onions and peppers start to soften. Add garlic. Cover, reduce heat to medium, and let cook another few minutes to soften garlic – if sticking/burning, add another splash of water. After a few minutes of cooking, add black beans 3 1/2 cups beans (reserving one cup of beans), water, tomato paste, vinegar, lime juice, and maple syrup (start with 1/2 tsp). Using an immersion blender, puree soup until fairly smooth. Increase heat to bring to boil, add bay leaf and diced sweet potatoes, then once at boil reduce and let simmer for 20-30 minutes. Add remaining cup of black beans and extra maple syrup if desired (taste test). Stir through, let simmer for another few minutes, then serve, topping with cilantro if desired and with lime wedges. Also delicious to top soup with some chopped seasoned avocado or a simple guacamole.
Serves 4-5 as main course.
Sweet Potato Tip: Sometimes I have leftover sweet potato home fries that have been seasoned with just sea salt. If so, I take a recipe and chopping shortcut and simply add these to my soup during the last 5-10 minutes of cooking, just to heat through.