Monday, March 22, 2010

Black Bean and Chorizo Soup with Quesadillas

Lately, I’ve been in a creative rut, both in the kitchen and in my life, in general.  Sometimes, it just seems like I’ve reached my limit in concocting creative ways to eat, or how to trick the kids I work with into doing what they need to do without being miserable.  Play-Doh only goes so far.  Lately, even my breakfasts and lunches seem like a drag, and I just feel cheated when I don’t enjoy a meal.  So much of the day is arduous, and a good meal can be so uplifting in the midst.  When the turkey wrap that you usually love bores you to tears, it’s time to change something.  I keep lists upon lists of recipes that I want to make, and I scoured them thoroughly for something inspiring: something affordable, foolproof, delicious, and something yielding leftovers that would revive my spirits at lunchtime. 
Luckily, I tapped into my Epicurious recipe box sooner, rather than later on my hunt, and found a recipe I had recently filed away, and forgotten about:  black bean and chorizo soup.  This soup could definitely be classified under the “quick and easy” category.  Given my current state of affairs, I was in no mood for messing with dried beans or anything complex.  This soup lacks complexity, but it is loaded with flavor.  Black beans, Spanish chorizo, bell pepper, and cumin swim together in chicken broth until they all become good friends.  This is not exactly a controversial combination.  I will refrain from expressing my deep love of black beans to you, because I know that rant must be getting a little tired, but I do love them so.  And, unless you have something against pork or meat in general, chorizo never hurt anything, especially if you are fan of all things salty and spicy, and not adverse to the richness you can only get from pork fat, a gift from the gods.  Most importantly, I felt that soup might just cure my lunchtime blues.  As this idea was brewing, I realized the soup needed a co-star, and as fate would have it, I had an abundance of wheat tortillas loitering in my fridge.  They usually would find their way into a turkey wrap for my lunch, but instead, they became the vehicle for white cheddar and green chile quesadillas.  Between the soup, the quesadillas, and the power of good leftovers, I began to look forward to lunchtime again, and all was right with the world.
Below, you will find the recipe, with my adaptations.  However, if you do not share my affinity for spiciness, you may want to cut back on the red pepper flakes.  You can always add more later, and the chorizo will automatically bring some heat.  Chorizo will also add salt, so be weary of that, as well.  Other than that, this recipe is utterly foolproof, and manages to get a little bit tastier every day.

Black Bean and Chorizo Soup with Quesadillas (soup recipe adapted from    

4-5 oz. Spanish chorizo (spicy cured pork sausage), coarsely chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
½ red bell pepper, chopped
1 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
2 teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon salt
1-2 teaspoons olive oil
2 ½ cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 (15 oz.) cans black beans, rinsed and drained

½ pound shredded white cheddar cheese
Fresh cilantro leaves
1-4oz. whole green chiles, drained, and torn into large pieces
4 large whole-wheat tortillas

·      Cook chorizo, onion, garlic, and bell peppers in oil in a soup pot over moderate heat, stirring, until vegetables are softened, about 10 minutes.
·      Add cumin, hot pepper flakes, and salt.  Stir to combine.
·      Add broth and beans, and reduce heat to a simmer.  Cook, partially covered and stirring occasionally, for 15-20 minutes.
·      While soup cooks, assemble quesadillas: on half of a tortilla, layer ¼ of the cheese, green chiles, and cilantro to taste.  Fold in half and set aside. 
·      Proceed until you have four quesadillas.
·      Preheat a non-stick pan over medium-high heat.  Add a drizzle of olive oil, and add one quesadilla at a time (unless you can fit two), and cook until the tortilla is golden, and the cheese is melted.
·      Proceed with remaining quesadillas, and cut into wedges.
·      Serve soup garnished with cilantro, and quesadillas on the side.

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