Monday, February 21, 2011

Black Bean & Salsa Soup

Recipe modified by Gretchen Wilson – October 14, 2010
For a commentary-free and printer-friendly version of it, please click here.

Recipe originally published by daily e-zine “The Daily Dish”.

It is a vegetarian soup that isn’t a broth.  I couldn’t WAIT to try this!  First I have to say I was shocked that a vegetarian dish had such high sodium content.  Looking at the ingredients, I couldn’t figure out where it came from, so I turned to the recipe’s comments.  Now I have to admit, nothing angers me more than people who “review” a recipe just to say they didn’t even bother because of “xyz”, in this case sodium.  You want to impress me anonymous reviewer?  Tell me how you would lower it.  Anybody can whine – I mean, I do it all the time – but it takes someone with talent to fix the problem.  I was really happy to see that allRecipes did a little research (it was the broth) and posted some information in the comments about lowering the sodium level.  Also, I did a little research on my own, so the recipe changed for all this information.

Comments can also come in handy when looking at recipe sites because people often will give substitutions or ways to fix mistakes.  The bad thing is they can also scare you too.  I always look at the lowest ratings because if you’re raving about it, I have no worries about the recipe.  Sifting through the whiners about the sodium level, I found a lot of comments regarding the “bland taste” and “bad texture.”  Since the dish is fairly inexpensive to make and I already had most of the ingredients, I decided to give it a try anyway.

My finished product:

Picture published with recipe:


The picture from AllRecipes looks a little thicker, where my soup looks more like a rich broth.  Mostly, they look very similar.  I have to say that I think this soup has plenty of flavor and was delicious, but if you don’t like beans, this will not change your mind.

for more details about what my ratings mean, go to Gretchen’s Rating System

MessEH – the soup is made in a food processor and a single pot.  It isn’t overly messy, unless you have an accident moving the blend from one to the other.  Of course, you can also be like me and accidentally overfill your food processor.  That brings it to a whole other level of mess, but fortunately for me, it was only a slight overfill that required minimal clean up.

Start-to-Finish Time: WELL UNDER AN HOUR – you can probably finish this meal within 30 minutes if you like your soup on the warm side.  I let my soup heat for about 20 minutes and was still done under an hour… and that included clean-up.

Prep Work: SLIGHT BLOOD LOSS – one green onion is all the chopping you have to do.  You will need to rinse your beans well, but you can simply dump them in a colander and run water over them while swishing them around.

Ease of Recipe: THE BASICS – Honestly, it could deserve COOK IT IN MY SLEEP rating, but not everyone has a food processor or blender, and I truly believe that a food processor is the best appliance to use.

OverallYUMMY – as I write this post, I’m munching on no-salt, no-butter popcorn thinking how lovely this rich and tasty soup would be right now.  The picture alone is making my mouth water.

Recipe Information:
Time estimates are from the original publisher of the recipe, not the length of time it took me to create it.  Look for my comments below.  Nutritional Information is based on original recipe.  Any changes I make to reduce the caloric, fat, cholesterol or sodium content are not reflected in the Nutritional Information.

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 4

Nutritional Information
  • Calories 240
  • Total Fat 5g
  • Cholesterol 6mg
  • Sodium 1216mg
  • Total Carbohydrate 34.5g
  • Fiber 12.9g
  • Protein 13.3g

Although you may be pushing it, you probably could get the recipe done in 20 minutes.  I gave my soup a little longer to get warm (over medium-low heat) and I think that made a difference.  You’ll have 4 decent size bowls of soup, but if you serve it with a salad (I wouldn’t recommend serving it with anything heavy like a sandwich) you could probably stretch it to 6.

The nutritional information looks solid and I used a no-fat sour cream to lower the calories and fat even more, but the real issue here is the sodium count. left a comment on the board saying that the vegetable broth was the culprit.  They said to look for low-salt beans and to rinse them well to help with the sodium count.  I dug around and found a couple of other things to help as well that I outline in the ingredient notes.

Changes denoted by red text

2 cans (15 oz each) low sodium black beans, drained and rinsed
1½ cups organic vegetable broth
1 cup chunky salsa
1 teaspoon ground cumin
4 tablespoons fat free sour cream
2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onion

Ingredient Notes:
Low-Sodium Black Beans – If you can find low-sodium beans, definitely buy them, but you still need to rinse them well.  Although some is absorbed into the beans, the bulk of the sodium in canned beans (even low-sodium beans) is in the liquid in the can.  Don’t try to rinse them in the can.  Dump them into a colander and run them under water while swishing them around.  Keep going until they don’t feel slimy anymore (or less slimy depending on your definition of slimy).

Organic Vegetable Broth – allRecipes said that the bulk of the sodium in the recipe came from the vegetable broth and then promptly said the best way to reduce the sodium is the beans.  I looked at a couple of my favorite brands, and none of them have a “reduced sodium” option, but all have an “organic” version.  A little sleuthing found that organic vegetable broth usually has 1/3 less sodium than regular.  I couldn’t find out why, but that was what I found.

Chunky Salsa – I went with a local jarred salsa that I enjoy with chips.  Whatever you select, you want it to be as thick as possible.  If it is has too much liquid, the soup will be too runny.

Fat-Free Sour Cream – the recipe called for regular sour cream, but the fat-free sour cream worked well and held up under the heat of the soup.

Green Onion – 2 tablespoons is about 1 large green onion.

Equipment Needed:
Cutting board
Sharp knife
Food processor or Blender
Large saucepan
Large spoon

Equipment Notes:
Food Processor / Blender – Although the blender will work, the better option is the food processor.  Food processors are an investment, but I think it is absolutely worth it.  Forget the bread makers – go with a good large capacity food processor.

Large Saucepan – In reality, it should be an extra large saucepan since you will be heating 30 ounces of beans with a 2½ cups of liquid.

(1)  In an electric food processor or blender, combine beans, broth, salsa, and cumin. Blend until fairly smooth.

(2)  Heat the bean mixture in a saucepan over medium heat until thoroughly heated.

I heated mine over medium heat until it was warm which took about 15 minutes, and then turned down the heat slightly and let it warm for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

(3)  Ladle soup into 4 individual bowls, and top each bowl with 1 tablespoon of the sour cream and ½ tablespoon green onion.

I really thought this soup was filled with a rich flavor.  The consistency wasn’t that much different from potato soup.  I do think letting it be over heat for a little longer helped the consistency and flavor.  Serve it with a salad or a small cheese quesadilla for a filling and healthy meal.

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