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Black Bean

Quick Vegetarian Black Bean Soup

Black Bean Soup

Very occasionally I make it out of the office before the sun’s completely down. That is a true sign that spring is on its way. Pretty soon, dandelions will be awakening and spinach will be sprouting. Those will be the days. Praise spring.

I’m still cooking up soups though to hold me through this winter. Soups are my cool-weather savior. I grew up slurping a lot of black beans in particular, so in this variety I find an extra sense of comfort. Hopefully it will bring comfort for you too.

The recipe below is deemed “quick” because the soup draws upon already cooked beans. Dried beans yield great results, but this is a fantastic time-saver for a warming week-night meal. Building its flavor from cumin, oregano and fresh cilantro, this soup serves as the perfect compliment to a slightly sweet side of cornbread. Spring is officially only a few weeks away (March 20), so make sure this one slips in their before then. Though really, that’s just an incentive to get your kitchen working. Black bean soup is of course worthy of a spoon far beyond March.

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Grilled Black Bean Burgers

When my friend told me this was the first intentional vegetarian meal that he’s ever cooked, I was shocked. What I wasn’t too surprised about was how well the meal turned out.  When it comes to summertime grilling and bean burgers, I’m generally satisfied.

However, when he sent over the recipe for his first debut on my blog, and I saw where it came from, my initial shock value tripled.  I was told the recipe was picked up from the Food Network. What I was not told was that it was a Sandra Lee original. It’s probably for the best that that tidbit of information was left out prior to eating.

To put it shortly, I’m not a Sandra Lee fan. She’s carved out her own signature approach to cooking, which is fine, but it’s just not my style. I generally don’t like using packaged foods, which is the key to her semi-homemade meals.

That’s exactly why I would’ve never guessed this was originally her vegetarian creation! The only processed component of this recipe was the food processor working its magic on the fresh ingredients that made these taste so good. Sandra Lee, you actually use real ingredients?

We decided to throw some blue cheese on top for an extra punch of flavor. Brie and arugula would be a nice duo, too. Or maybe grilling the tomatoes before using them as a topper. With a grill, the options really are endless, so let whatever veggies you have on hand be your inspiration.

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Roasted Tomato and Asparagus Black Bean Tacos

It’s taken me my whole life to pinpoint what type of guy I like. And I still flip flop my preferences on a regular basis. Luckily, choosing a style of veggies I like comes much easier. Growing up, my mom always told me veggies were healthy, and boys, well, not so much. So I guess I’m doing alright.

Probably my all time favorite cooking method is roasting (though this is subject to change from time to time as well). The oven-baked style allows veggies like onions and tomatoes to caramelize, drawing out the sweetness hiding within them. It’s this caramelization that allows these tacos to remain simple, utilizing flavor from a heavy dose of golden garlic rather than a cabinet full of spices or herbs. (Which is not to say you couldn’t incorporate those too if you so desired.) Here, the veggies are allowed to fully be the star of these tacos, with the roasting effects allowing them to uphold this title.

Roasted veggies and tacos are both favorites of mine in the summer, so it’s only logical to put the two together. And don’t forget the avocado, my other favorite ingredient in this recipe. That’s one fly guy I’ll never change my mind about.

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Roasted Red Pepper and Black Bean Dip

Just like with soup, I’ve found that there are endless combinations of ingredients that you can blend together to form a solid, irresistible dip. With soup, you’ve got your fundamental elements, which can vary to some degree, but will persistently be added for key flavor – i.e., garlic, onions, and celery. Same goes for spreads and dips.

I nearly always start out with a couple cloves of fresh garlic in the food processor (although not much more because raw garlic is pungent). Then I add a bean to create the bulk, making for a nice protein-centered base. Chickpeas, for a traditional hummus, black beans for a color-changer, white beans for a delicate or Italian spread, etc. etc.  Then I go for tahini, or olive oil, or sometimes even peanut butter to create the rich, much needed creamy element of the dip. From there, I’ll decide on the spices, and then add one or two herbs to freshen things up.

Then, I simply let the magic of the food processor take over and do the work. Creating a dip/spread is really a simple process that leaves a lot of room for creativity.

The one below is not too wild, drawing from many of the same spices used in hummus. Feel free to go out on a limb and add in some of your own spices…Maybe those ones hidden in the back of the cupboard that don’t get many opportunities to shine. If you want a safe route, or simply a recipe to follow so you can unwind, stick with the spices below that will guarantee a delicious spread. (Although, I will make you choose between using cilantro and parsley.) If you do decide to venture out onto your own route, trust me, you can’t go too wrong. Just start with a small dosage of whatever herb/spice you’re experimenting with and go from there.

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Black Bean Burgers with Sautéed Broccoli Rabe Topping

Ah, burgers, the edible epitome of America. While you can count me out on the ones gifted in fast food packaging, I too am a sucker for a good, solid burger. A vegetarian one, that is.

There are numerous ways to construct a meat-free burger, but the classic veggie version is probably the black bean. I’ve filled my youthful belly with quite a few of them over the years.  While some places no doubt can really make a mean BB-burger, more often than not, I find myself chewing on a bland patty, within an oversized bun, needing a huge dousing of ketchup to draw to my taste-buds any significant flavor. It tends to be an unforgettable eating experience.

While the frijoles negros pack a powerful punch of  protein, fiber, antioxidants, and even lend a meat-like color, the beans themselves could use some flavor. While beans do all have unique, individual tastes, they are often subtle, making the soft gems great building blocks for a burger.

I set out to create a black bean burger that wouldn’t be lacking taste, one that would be memorable and would appeal to meat-free and meatful eaters alike. After all, a great burger, beef-filled or not, can tend to please nearly any appetite.

I added some spices and my standard veggie mise en place, along with a few other ingredients to shape a burger worthy of such an experience. And if that wasn’t enough, I topped it with broccoli rabe to give it an extra bite. If you’ve ever eaten the broccoli rabe, AKA rapini, I’m sure you’re well aware that the vitamin A packed veggie is by no means deficient in taste.

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