Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Homemade Pepper Spray and Black Bean Soup

Does anyone know what happens when you try to soften jalapeño peppers by sautéing them for a few minutes in a pan? You fill your kitchen with a noxious gas somewhat akin to pepper spray. In fact, I'm fairly sure if you could figure out how to bottle it, you would have a self-defense mechanism. The sad thing is that I vaguely remember learning this lesson once before, albeit with crushed red pepper (used in a rub on steak and then thrown on a stovetop grill), but I still managed to repeat the mistake when I was making jalapeño-chedder cornbread last night. I was working from a recipe that called for canned chilis and since those are soft, I thought I should soften the jalapeños I was substituting for them. Then I sneezed and wheezed for the next hour.

The worst part is that the cornbread was HORRIBLE. I realized something was wrong with the recipe when the dough came out like soup, so I tried adding another cup of cornmeal and some flour. Even that wasn't enough though. After more than an hour in the oven, the cornbread was more like spoonbread. The flavor was good, but it was not cuttable or crumbly. Nic tried to make me feel better by saying, "Cornbread is hard to make." But let's be honest. It really isn't.

Luckily, dinner was not a total disaster because the black bean soup I made was a success. The soup turned out really delicious and was much easier to make than the cornbread. Added bonus it's really healthy, and if you use vegetable broth (I didn't have any in the pantry), it is even vegetarian. I'm sure it would be great served with, say, a slice of cornbread. Or something like that.

Black Bean Soup
Makes 4 dinner servings

1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
1/2 yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic minced
glug of olive oil
1 jalapeño, minced (and deseeded if you want a milder soup)
1 tomato, diced
3 (15 oz.) cans black beans
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. salt

-Heat a large pot with a glug of olive oil on medium heat. Sauté the bell peppers, onion, and garlic for 5 minutes, just until the start to soften. Add jalapeño, tomato, black beans, and broth.
-Bring soup to a boil over medium-high heat, then lower the heat and simmer 15 minutes.
-Season with chili powder, cumin, and salt.

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