Terrific Tomato & Black Bean Soup

At times, winter in Ontario feels like it is never going to end. We don’t see the sun much in my area which largely experiences short grey days and long dark nights, broken up by the occasional snowpocalypse or ice storm event. When spring finally rolls around, I think most of us have been gazing out the back door for weeks in our short sleeve shirts only to experience the stark realization that we need to go back into the house and grab a sweater, and quite likely rain jacket too.

Yes, we do get summer in Ontario, complete with heat waves, thunderstorms, and all the usual weather events. It’s just that when it’s the middle of winter, it seems like summer will never actually show up, and that is why we have soup. Long, cold, dark days are always better with soup. This recipe is one of our staples at UEGT during the winter. It’s a great recipe to take away at least some of those winter blahs. We use a version of this recipe in the pressure canner with added lemon juice, but since we are already in the middle of the winter season, this version of the recipe is written for heating and then eating.

What you need:

  • Enough Fresh or Frozen tomatoes that will become your soup base. You can cheat if you want and use 2-3 cans of condensed tomato soup with water as per can instructions instead of doing the home made thing. I won’t judge!
  • Black beans (we use about 1- 1.5 cups of dry beans from the garden and rehydrate them, but you can use a large can of black beans instead). Seriously, unless you have someone rummaging through your recycle bin, no one is going to know you used a can of black beans.
  • 1 medium diced onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic diced, or more if you like lots of garlic. I’d never make it as a vampire.
  • a stalk or two of chopped celery
  • hot peppers (optional) You can decide how ring of fire you want it.
  • Cumin powder (to your taste, we tend to go heavy on the cumin)
  • Chili powder (to suit your taste)
  • salt and pepper
  • a drop of oil or butter
  • sour cream or shredded cheese to top soup

Making the soup:

  • Add the drop of oil or butter to your stock pot and saute your onions and garlic until soft
  • If you are making your own tomato soup base, chop and cook your tomatoes until soft. Remove seeds and skins by processing soft tomatoes through a food mill. Pour the remaining tomato base into a stock pot with your onions and garlic. If you are using canned tomato soup, you can skip this step and just add your soup and water to the stock pot with the onions and garlic and you are good to go.
  • Rehydrate black beans (I like using an instant pot for this as I never remember to soak them the day before). Remember what I said earlier. You can also just use a large can of drained and rinsed black beans. Don’t forget to rinse them though or they will be starchy and kind of a gooey mess. Add the beans to the soup base in the pot.
  • Use an immersion blender to chop the black beans up a bit before you continue with you soup making. You don’t need to blend them to a pulp. You just want to beat them up a little which breaks them up a bit. This allows your soup seasonings to infiltrate the beans. Ok sounds complicated but it just means that your flavours are are mixed better throughout the soup.
  • Add your seasonings, the chopped celery, and any other veggies that you think might be interesting in the soup. I think corn works well, but I will admit, I often just look to see what I have in the fridge and toss in veggies that are starting to cross the line over into the “good for soup only” stage of their fridge life. Where is that line you ask? It’s about 1 or 2 stages before “good for feeding to chickens only” stage.
  • Bring your soup to a boil and then lower heat to simmer. You can now walk away and do other things for a bit (as long as you aren’t going to burn the kitchen down). A good flavourful soup shouldn’t be rushed. Sure you can cook it quick and eat it but it won’t be utterly amazing. This style of soup should simmer long enough to make some delicious fresh bread (using a bread maker, not your grandmother’s 10 day home made sour dough recipe). Personally, I like to make this soup and simmer it for a few hours, then let it cool, refrigerate it and eat it for lunch the next day (hopefully with fresh bread that my husband made. Full disclosure here, I do not bake. My complex baking endeavours have never really turned out well… ok they haven’t turned out at all. Total complete failure, but I digress). My point here is that although the soup will be good the day it is made, it reaches that level of mouth watering awesomeness if you leave it until the day after.
  • Enjoy your toasty warm bowl of soup with a dollop of sour cream or some shredded cheddar cheese, or if you are being really adventuresome, try a bit of both.

Enjoy the soup. Don’t worry, although it may not feel like it now, winter will come to an end. Well ok, that is unless you live somewhere where it’s ridiculously cold, all the time, under mountains of snow, and your neighbour is some jolly old guy who has an affinity for cookies and red pants. If you live in that place, I don’t really know if winter will end for you. Sorry. For you guys, I think you should maybe just embrace the hot cocoa and go hug a reindeer. Oh, and make lots of soup. Seriously, make stupid amounts of soup. You’ll need it. And maybe also consider moving…. unless you like snow…. and soup…. and abominable snow creatures.

Brrr. It’s time for some soup.

Best Butternut Squash Soup

The best thing about making soup is usually nothing is really set in stone. It is true that you will have to follow some of the basic rules of recipe building, but with soup, you tend to have quite a bit of flexibility. I find there is always a little bit of winging it as I fill the pot, but that is half the fun. Sometimes you may not have all the ingredients that you planned to use and you’ll need to get a little creative (thinking outside the pot lol). The final product may not turn out exactly as you thought it would, and that is ok. It’ll probably still be great.

With all that being said, here is the basic guidance for building yourself an awesome pot of butternut squash soup that will surely be appreciated by all on a cold, snowy January day. Disclaimer- This is NOT a canning recipe where measurements and ingredients must be exact so that you don’t accidentally end up with a bowl full of botulism. This recipe is intended to be eaten within a reasonable amount of time after making it, so you’ll find my measurements below are not overly specific. Like I said, soup making, unless you are making a commercial product for stores, doesn’t have to be exact. Soup is not an exact science, so take the leap of faith and just go with the flow. If you aren’t sure how much of what stuff, just guess. Trust me, at worst it will turn out edible, and at best, it’ll be so freaking fabulous that you’ll be licking the bottom of the bowl.

INGREDIENTS: Alright, less chat and more soup making, so let’s get to it. Here is what you will need (note* any of this can be substituted with a reasonable alternative ingredient):

  • 1 regular sized butternut squash, or any other type of winter squash will work, although a sweeter variety is likely better
  • Approximately 4 cups of liquid that resembles stock. I like to use 2 cups of home made chicken stock and 2 cups of water.
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 1 onion or shallot diced
  • 2 garlic cloves diced
  • splash of maple syrup (go with the real stuff, it’s so much better) Splash is about a table spoon or 2. It really depends on how sweet you want your soup
  • 2 tbspoons of brown sugar
  • A little bit of oil or butter (just enough to satay the onion and garlic)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste. I never add salt but I do like a bit of pepper

Simple Steps to making a Souper Soup:

  • Step 1: Turn on your oven to 350 degrees, cut your squash in half and remove the seeds. Place your squash face down on a baking sheet (I like to use parchment paper or a silicone baking mat so the squash doesn’t stick). Bake for about 20 minutes or until the skin is browning and is easily removed from the squash. You might want to leave it cool for 5-10 minutes before handling it as it will be super hot! Don’t skip the roasting step as roasting the squash brings out the natural sugars. If you skip this step, your soup will probably turn out okay’ish at best. When it’s cool enough to handle, remove the skin (I feed the skins to the worms in my vermicomposter), and chop the squash up into chunks.
  • Step 2: In a large pot, satay the onions and garlic in the butter or oil until soft. Use the pot you are going to cook your soup in to save on dishes.
  • Step 3: Add squash chunks, maple syrup, brown sugar and the 4 cups of stock liquid to the pot containing the onion and garlic. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer for about 10 minutes. If your soup becomes too thick and is more like a paste than a soup, you should add some more liquid.
  • Add the milk, salt and pepper to the pot and use a hand blender to puree the mixture until smooth. Keep heating the soup on low for about 10 more minutes. Be sure to stir frequently.
  • Voila! Your Butternut Squash Soup is now ready for a lunch table near you. You can serve your soup straight up as is or get fancy with some garnishes and a dollop of sour cream or yogurt. Personally, I love a nice slice of warm fresh bread to go with my bowl.

So you may have gotten to the end of this recipe and are thinking to yourself, “that’s it? ” Here’s a secret. Simple is often better and some of the best soups are simple. Life is too complicated and difficult as it is without adding complex stressful soup making into the mix. A simple soup is a saviour on a less than stellar winter day when you want something that is warm and comforting, but don’t have time to slave away at a stove all day. Still, you don’t have to tell your tasters that it was ridiculously easy to make. Keep that secret. Don’t worry, I won’t tell. Have a Souper Saturday or enjoy it any day of the week. Cheers.