Black Bean Soup with Roasty Veg

Roasting the aromatic vegetables for black bean soup intensifies and deepens the soup's flavor, with virtually no extra effort. To make a vegetarian/vegan version, simply omit the ham hock – the roasted veg supplies plenty of depth. 

*To make this a vegan dish, simply omit the ham hock; the wonderful roasted flavor of the vegetables give the soup plenty of depth.

Serves 6.

Ingredients

1 medium yellow onion, peeled and halved through the stem

2 red bell peppers, halved vertically

1 Anaheim or poblano pepper, halved

3 carrots, trimmed and peeled

1 head garlic

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon cumin seed

1/2 teaspoon coriander seed

1 pound black beans, rinsed and picked over

1 smoked ham hock

1/8 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or red chile flakes

1 12-ounce can diced tomatoes

1 teaspoon salt

Fresh cilantro and/or sliced scallions for garnish (optional)

Instructions

1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with a Silpat or parchment, if you have it (it makes cleanup easier). Place the onion and peppers cut-side down on the baking sheet, along with the carrots. Peel the outer layers away from the garlic head, then slice about 1/3 inch off the top and discard. Place the garlic cut-side up in a ramekin or other small oven-proof dish. Brush with the olive oil, and brush the carrots and onion with olive oil as well. Roast the vegetables for about 40 minutes, until the peppers are well blistered and the onion is soft-ish.

2. While the vegetables are roasting, toast the cumin and coriander seeds in a small saucepan over low heat until they become fragrant, about four or five minutes. Use a pestle to crush them in a mortar, or grind them in a spice grinder or coffee grinder. Set aside.

3. When the vegetables are done roasting, place the peppers in a paper bag for five minutes; the steam helps their skins loosen. Peel, side and dice them. Dice the carrots and onion, and press the garlic cloves so the meat pops out of the papery skin. Set the roasted vegetables aside.

4. Place the black beans in a large soup pot and cover with 8 cups of water. Add the ham hock, the roasted vegetables, the ground cumin and coriander, the Aleppo pepper or chiles and the can of tomatoes. Bring to a boil, then turn down heat and simmer over low heat until the beans are tender, 2 to 2 1/2 hours. 

5. Remove the ham hock, and let it cool enough to handle. Use a small knife to remove the skin and fat, dice the meat and set aside. 

6. Use an immersion blender to purée the soup – not completely, but until it just creamy but there are still some whole beans. Alternatively, purée 2 cups of the soup in a blender or food processor until smooth, then return it to the soup. Add the diced meat and salt. Taste, adjust the seasoning and serve.