Sweet Potato & Black Bean Soup

There are vegetable soups, and then there’s this soup.  I made it on a day when I woke up to dreary, gray skies and a faint drizzle – something which, sadly, has been an unwelcome frequent occurrence this fall in Boston.  I wanted to roll over and re-bury myself beneath my covers, but alas, there was an appeal brief to edit and a section of a summary judgment opposition to research and draft.  Plus, a tray of cinnamon rolls (acquired a few days ago on a trip to the newly-opened and insanely-packed Wegmans) was waiting for me in the kitchen.  Priorities.

There’s something about the inevitable approach of winter this year that makes me want to dig in my heels like a stubborn child and scream, “No!!”  Maybe it’s because we’ve been spoiled by a relatively warm fall so far.  Maybe it’s because last winter was bitterly cold and awfully long.  Maybe it’s because I’m moving to southern California in a little over two months and am already anticipating sunshine and being free from snow.  Whatever it is, I’m already eyeing my puffer coat with dread.

Gloomy skies, accompanied by a drop in temperature that forced me to turn on the heat for the first time this fall, made me crave a bowl of warm, hearty soup for lunch.  It just so happened that I had a lone sweet potato sitting in my fridge.  Its original fate was to be roasted, but instead it became the star of this sweet potato and black bean soup.  And what a soup it is.  I was expecting it to be good, but I ended up being blown away.  It’s loaded with veggies and thicker than most vegetable soups, thanks to the sweet potato and black beans.  The cumin and hot sauce add fantastic flavor and heat, perfectly balanced by the addition of cool, creamy chunks of avocado.  And it’s incredibly healthy, so I didn’t have any qualms about constantly sneaking bites from the pot all afternoon.  I mean, hey, I needed brain food.  Those briefs weren”t going to write themselves!

Sweet Potato & Black Bean Soup

Adapted from Shutterbean

Makes at least 6 servings

As Tracy notes, as long as you have the basic ingredients (cumin, stock, black beans, tomatoes, onion), you can use whatever vegetables you want.

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium yellow onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

3 carrots, chopped into coins or diced

32 oz. vegetable or low-sodium chicken stock

1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 bunch kale, chopped (I used baby spinach)

1 red pepper, chopped (I omitted)

2 medium zucchini, chopped

1 medium sweet potato, peeled and chopped

2 12 oz. cans black beans, rinsed and drained

1/2 bunch cilantro, coarsely chopped, plus additional for garnish

hot sauce

salt & pepper

1 ripe avocado

In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add onions and cook until slightly softened and transparent.

Add carrots, garlic and cumin and cook for 3 minutes. Add stock and canned tomatoes, then raise the heat to high.  Add kale, zucchini, red pepper, sweet potatoes and black beans to the pot and bring to a boil.  Add cilantro and a few splashes of hot sauce and stir.  Reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Season with salt and pepper to taste, and more hot sauce as needed.

To serve, top each bowl of soup with chunks of avocado and a few sprigs of fresh cilantro.  Add more hot sauce if you want!

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