Recipe: Black bean and butternut soup

Good old mise en place...
Good old mise en place

This recipe doesn’t scream “spring”, but I felt like making a butternut squash soup at least once more while the weather in Cambridge is still cool and grey. It’s pretty directly adapted from the lovely Sprouted Kitchen, except that I added some lean ground beef for extra protein.

Step one: browning the beef.
Step one: browning the beef.
Added the vegetables and broth.
Added the vegetables and broth.

The result is kind of a stripped-down, lightened-up chili con carne; you’ve got the beans, the meat, the cumin and cayenne, but no tomatoes, and the cabbage adds an interesting dimension as well. It’s pretty tasty with beef, but I think the original, meatless version (or the recipe that inspired it from Amy Chaplin) look equally good.

Spices giving a touch more color!
Spices giving a touch more color!

One final note: I decided to try thickening the soup at the end by pulsing an immersion blender through it a few times. This doesn’t work very well with the ground beef in the soup! If you want to use this method, do it before you add the beef back in, and consider leaving the lid off during the final simmer to reduce the liquid and further thicken the soup.

Definitely not the prettiest thing I've ever made, but tasty!
Definitely not the prettiest thing I’ve ever made, but tasty!

Black Bean and Butternut Soup

Yield: 6-8 servings.

Adapted from: Sprouted Kitchen.

1 lb/500 g extra lean ground beef (optional)
1 Tbsp olive oil (reduce or omit if using beef)
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 small head of cabbage, chopped (heaping 2 cups)
3 c cubed butternut squash
3 c low sodium vegetable broth (I used homemade)
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp cocoa powder
Pinch of chipotle powder or cayenne pepper (increase to taste)
2 cups cooked black beans (about one can, rinsed and drained)
Salt and pepper to taste
Cornmeal to thicken (optional)

In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, brown the ground beef over medium to medium-high heat, chopping it up with your spoon/spatula/stirring utensil as it cooks. Remove cooked beef to a bowl and drain off most of the liquid. If you aren’t using beef, warm the oil over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and saute until just beginning to brown, about 6-8 minutes. Add the garlic, cabbage, squash and broth. Turn the heat down to a gentle simmer, cover the pot and allow the vegetables to cook for 15-20 minutes.

Add the spices, beef, and beans and stir to combine thoroughly. Let everything continue to cook another ten minutes for the flavors to blend. Salt and pepper to taste.

If a thicker soup is desired, pulse an immersion blender through the soup a few times (before you add the ground beef back to the pot!), or run some of it through a blender or food processor and add it back in to the pot. Alternatively, a sprinkle of cornmeal would help thicken it as well.

Serving suggestion: Piping hot, garnished with fresh cilantro and hot sauce to taste. If you omitted the beef, some heartier garnishes such as avocado or chevre would not go amiss.

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