This past weekend the headliner in our local paper was this:
Not your imagination – it’s been a dreary year.”
Tells of this being the fifth coldest April on record. Tells of three forces – La Nina, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, and high-altitude ash from the Icelandic volcano – conspiring to make us shiver and keep us that way at least through June.
I didn’t need the paper to tell me what I’ve already been through, thanks. Springs run to the mild here in Eugene, but this has been ridiculous. When the Seattle native (me) starts complaining about the rain you know it’s been wet.
What’s this got to do with lunch? I’ll tell you – it’s still soup-in-the-thermos season, that’s what.
Here’s a house favorite, gleaned from “Hotter than Hell” by Jane Butel (an extra-nice title for this particular season). Thankfully this soup isn’t what the book title implies – In fact it’s easy and rich, not so much “hot” as “warm”, like that “cayenne in cocoa” kind of warm.
(What? You’ve never added a dash of cayenne to cocoa? try it sometime – it will make you gasp with delight.)
BRAZILIAN BLACK BEAN SOUP
1 lb black beans
8 C water
3/4 C cooked ham, diced
1 ham bone, if you have it
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 t salt
1/2 C diced onion
2 whole cloves
1/2 t cumin ( or to taste)
1 t to 1 T red chile powder, or to taste
Juice of one lime (2 T)
1/4 C rum (Jamaican is preferred)
4 green onions, finely chopped
1/2 C grated Monterey jack cheese OR sour cream
Rinse beans and soak overnight in water to cover. Alternately, you can place the beans in a large pan of water, bring to a boil, then turn off heat, cover and let stand for a couple hours.
After they’ve soaked, drain the beans, then place in a large saucepan with the 8 cups water, ham, ham bone (if using one), garlic, salt, dice onions, cloves, cumin, chile powder, and lime juice. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 2 hours or until beans are tender and soup is thick. Taste and adjust seasonings. Before serving remove ham bone.
If desired you can add the rum at this point, but I’ve made this many times without it and loved it anyway. Top off each bowl of soup with cheese or sour cream and green onions and a lime wedge. If you’re carrying this in a thermos, bring the toppings in the condiment jar and add them just before digging in.
If you do leave out the rum, maybe you’d rather raise a glass of it to offer a toast:
to better weather – wherever it may be.”