With the weather taking a turn for cool in the next month, few foods are more inviting than a bowl of soup. For those who like their autumn air with a side of soup, consider the following recipe for "Spicy Black Bean Soup" courtesy of Leslie Jonath's "Soup's On!" (Chronicle Books).

"Spicy Black Bean Soup"

Serves six to eight

2 cups dried black beans, sorted and soaked overnight in water to cover

1 sprig fresh oregano

2 bay leaves

2 fresh sage leaves

1 tablespoon light olive oil or vegetable oil

1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, toasted in a pan for 5 minutes

8 garlic cloves, chopped

1 heaped tablespoon ancho chilies, pureed

2 teaspoons chipotle chilies, pureed

1/4 cup dry sherry

8 ounces fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped or 1 can tomatoes with juice, chopped

1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

Salt

Cayenne pepper

Garnish

8 ounces fresh tomatoes, seeded and chopped

1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro

Drain and rinse the beans. Place them in a soup pot with 6 cups cold water, the oregano, and bay and sage leaves. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, until the beans are soft, about 30 minutes.

Heat the oil in a saute pan and add the onion, toasted oregano, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon cayenne. Cook over medium heat until the onion is soft, 7 to 8 minutes. Add the garlic and the chile purees. Saute for 3 to 4 minutes,


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add the sherry, and simmer until it is reduced by half, a minute or two. Add the tomatoes and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook for 10 minutes.

Set aside 1 1/2 cups of the cooked beans and remove the fresh herbs and bay leaves. Combine the remaining beans and their broth with the tomatoes and onion and puree them in a blender or food processor. Pass through a food mill to remove the bean skins and return the puree to the soup pot; add the reserved beans, the orange juice, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Season with salt and cayenne to taste. Cover and cook over low heat for 30 minutes.

In a small bowl, toss the tomatoes and cilantro together. Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish each serving with a spoonful of the tomato-cilantro mixture.