For years, the vaguely naughty-looking immersion blender lay idle in a kitchen drawer. My mom had bought it for me claiming it was some kind of kitchen miracle for soups. I was more into opening cans than making my own soups back then. I don’t know what was stopping me. I have always loved soup, and when my mom bought me the new kitchen implement, she was going through a soup-making phase including mushroom barley and curried carrot that threatened my loyalty to both Campbell’s and Progresso. But actually making soup from scratch seemed like an impossibly complicated procedure. Something only real cooks should attempt.
I remember my first go at vegetable soup. It was at summer camp, in between two of my middle school years, at a pretentious place where the tuition was pricey but the food barely edible. I somehow got the idea in my head that I should try making some of my own food out of the leftovers I would sneak out of the dining room. The plan involved running cooked vegetables in a Styrofoam cup under really, really hot tap water in my bunk. I imagined, maybe, Campbell’s vegetarian vegetable soup would emerge from the mess. Maybe this explains why I went back to condensed soup for another couple decades.
Nowadays, as the weather starts to grow cooler, the immersion blender starts getting a weekly workout, whirring its way through vegetables and legumes, transforming lumpy vats into smooth creamy wonders. No transferring hot soup to a blender. Just an elegant solution, whether I want to make a completely silky thick soup, or a combination of smooth and chunky like the black bean soup below.
I remind myself every time to keep the blending part fully immersed. I can’t say if I ever splattered soup all over myself and the kitchen by prematurely pulling the blender towards the surface (or keeping my finger on the button while removing the device) but the image of hot soup spraying all over is so vivid–and so believable–that I recall it as if I’d done it. (I do remember causing high velocity whipped cream splatter in a similar incident with the hand mixer.)
This black bean soup got rave reviews from my hungry paddling friends at our end of the slalom racing season potluck dinner.
Black Bean Soup with Chipotle Peppers
Adapted from a recipe from The Smitten Kitchen
Yields 6 main course servings
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 medium-size red or white onions, chopped
- 1 medium-size red bell pepper, chopped
- 1 medium-size green bell pepper, chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 cup of chopped fresh tomatoes or one can of diced tomatoes
- 4 teaspoons ground cumin
- 2-16-ounce cans black beans with their liquid
- 1 teaspoon minced chipotle chiles and adobo sauce from a can (the original recipe called for a tablespoon, but my whitewater paddling friends—no wimps, there—told me the level of spiciness was perfect at the teaspoon I’d put in. Keep in mind it’ll get spicier as it sits around.)
- 1-2 cups water (to desired thickness)
- 2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lime juice
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1-2 TBS minced fresh cilantro (or to taste)
- Saute onions and peppers in the olive on medium-high heat until they just begin to brown.
- Add garlic, tomatoes and cumin and stir for another minute.
- Scrape vegetables into your soup pot. Add beans with their liquid and chipotles and one cup of water.
- Heat on medium-high until the mixture begins to bubble and then reduce the heat and allow the soup to simmer for half an hour or so. You are just allowing the flavors to intermingle and get good and friendly.
- Insert your immersion blender (the story above convinced you to buy one if you didn’t already own one, didn’t it?) and puree until the soup has a pleasingly creamy texture, but plenty of chunks of vegetables and whole beans left as well. (You can also allow the soup to cool and pour half of it into a blender.)
- Add lime juice and salt and pepper to taste.
- Shortly before serving, add the cilantro. Cilantro also makes a perfect garnish.