Bowl of Comfort

Normally I love rainy days. They are cozy days. Thinking days. Today’s rainy day sucks because it has me inside a funky, sweaty car shop with thick-sole footed, oily uniformed men stomping about popping pistons and rotating wheels and doing all types of foreign things. This is the place where I do not speak the lingo and I feel very vulnerable. They spout things like “diagnostics” and “master cylinder” and I cringe and hide behind my purse. I say “Can you explain the problem to my car in pixels or PHP?” They furrow their brows. I try again. “Can you draw me a wireframe demonstrating the problem with my automobile?” They hand me a bill and I pay $500 to get my car keys back. I leave that linoleum floor world devastated and out of sorts.

This makes me want to eat milk chocolate in wholesale proportions. I need comfort. I need to eat my feelings. But alas after a weekend of gastronomic debauchery behind me already and Miami RoundUp Rendezvous bikini fitting on the horizon, I must find something to eat that is healthy, calorically-wise but also filling. So now bankrupt, I do what Jack did, I use my last pennies for magic beans. And they were put to such good use. Marth Rose Shulman’s recipe for Black Bean Soup with Cumin and Tomatoes was smoky, substantial and sensual. Everything a single girl needs after being monkey-wrenched at the local Midas shop on a soggy day. Hope you find good use for this recipe too:

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

4 large garlic cloves, halved

1 cup dried black beans, washed and picked over

6 cups water

1 14-ounce can tomatoes, drained

2 teaspoons lightly toasted cumin seeds, ground

1 canned chipotle pepper, rinsed, or 1 serrano pepper, coarsely chopped (optional)

1. Heat one tablespoon of the olive oil in a large, heavy soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add half of the onion. Cook, stirring, until tender, and add two of the garlic cloves. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, and add the beans and the water. Discard any of the beans that float, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer 1 1/2 hours until the beans are tender.

2. While the beans are simmering, combine the remaining onion, drained tomatoes, cumin, chile and remaining garlic in a blender, and blend until smooth. Heat the remaining oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat until hot enough for a drop of the puree to sizzle upon contact. Add the puree, and cook, stirring, for five to 10 minutes until the mixture is thick and leaves a canal when you run a spoon or spatula down the center of the pan. Stir in a cup of liquid from the beans, and simmer over medium heat for five to 10 minutes until thick and fragrant. Scrape into the beans with a rubber spatula. Season the beans with salt, and simmer another 15 to 30 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasonings.

3. Blend the soup coarsely using an immersion blender or in batches in a blender (cover the top with a towel to avoid hot splashes) or a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Return to the pot, and heat through, stirring. Serve with warm corn tortillas.

Yield: Serves four.

Advance preparation: The soup will keep for three or four days in the refrigerator.

Martha Rose Shulman can be reached at

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