I always thought that, aside from rice, it was a crime to combine anything starchy with beans. This is because, in my opinion, beans are perfectly starchy enough. Surely, anything more would take it overboard, right? Wrong. This soup is amazing. The smooth broth thickens thanks to reserved black bean liquid and a healthy dose of tasty spices. And next to the starchy black beans, the sweet potato seems almost velvety. This soup is so delicious it can make a good day seem great and a not-so-great day seem comical. At least, that’s my experience.
Let me tell you about the first time I ate a bowl of it. To begin, you should know that it got very cold very quickly here. Literally, it was 84 degrees one day and 45 the next. I did not turn on the heat until it hit the 30s, which was right around the time that, unbeknownst to me, some wasps decided to Columbus-it-up and take my home for their own. I discovered this the same day that everything-and I mean literally everything-went just a little bit wrong.
That day, I came home prepared to pout, and instead discovered that the wasps had made their coup. Did I mention how much I hate wasps? My response was not graceful. I left the front door open, ran onto the porch, and watched through the window as my knight in furry armor, Arthur, chased them around.
…Turns out he didn’t catch them, as I had hoped. For upon sitting down to eat my first comforting bowl of this delicious soup later that day, I heard something buzzing confusedly above my head. I camped out in my room, bowl of soup in hand, until I was certain that Arthur had finally conquered the wasps (he did). And perhaps it’s the fact that my house is now wasp-free, or it’s the result of the passage of time, or there’s actual magic in this soothingly spicy soup, but I now look back on that day and find it funny.
Spicy Black Bean and Sweet Potato Soup
1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup white onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 sweet or normal red bell pepper, diced
2 15-oz cans black beans, with ½ cup liquid reserved
1 cup sweet potato, peeled and cubed
2 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
½ tsp garlic powder
¼ tsp ground oregano
¼ tsp cayenne (or more, if you like heat)
About 4 cups vegetable broth (i.e., fill pot until vegetables are covered)
Sea salt, to taste
Toppings: sour cream, white cheddar, and blue corn tortilla chips
Heat olive oil on medium in a large pot. Add onions and garlic and sauté. When onions are translucent, add bell pepper. Once bell pepper softens, add black beans, liquid, and sweet potato and stir. After 2 min, stir in the spices so they coat the vegetables (it will look like a lot, but it’s delicious!). Afterward, add vegetable broth and bring to a boil on medium-high heat. Let boil for 7 minutes, then reduce to medium and cook until sweet potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and season to taste with sea salt. Serve warm with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of grated white cheddar cheese, with blue corn tortilla chips for scooping on the side. To store, let cool completely, then keep in refrigerator. Soup will last up to 7 days (and tastes best on the second day, when the flavors have had a chance to meld!).