Sunday, August 31, 2008

Bacon Makes Life Worth Living


Bacon is trendy and better than ever! Woo-hoo! Pork lovers everywhere can get a bacon fix just about anywhere you turn these days. In the past year, I have seen maple frosted donuts topped with bacon bits, bacon infused dark chocolate, bacon potato chips and bacon candy, which seems to be crispy bacon strips glazed with a hardened sugary syrup. Yes, I said bacon candy. I know, that one seems weird even to a die-hard bacon fanatic like myself. It is oddly intriguing though...

Don't worry. I'm not about to spring some weird recipe like bacon ice cream on you. This recipe doesn't even feature bacon as the main ingredient. Rather, the bacon enhances the earthy flavors of this delicious, soul warming black bean soup.


1 large onion, finely diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
8 ounces bacon, chopped (do not use maple flavored bacon)
2 15 ounce cans black beans, drained
1 10 ounce can diced tomatoes with green chilies
32 ounces low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
2 dried, smoked chilies, stems removed

Heat a large soup pot over medium heat.

Add bacon and fry for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the onion and fry for 5 more minutes.

Add the garlic and fry for 5 more minutes, stirring frequently to avoid burning the garlic.

Add the beans, the tomatoes (including the juice) and the broth. Mix well.

Add the spices and the chilies.

Raise the heat to medium high and bring to a low boil.

Once the low boil is reached, lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes with the lid on.

Remove the chilies unless you want a really spicy flavor.

Take the soup off the heat and puree with a hand blender or in a regular blender. If using a regular blender, puree in small batches of about 2 cups each and then remix the soup in the pot after you're finished pureeing.

Serve this soup steaming hot, with slices of crusty bread.

Serves 4.

Cooking Tips:

1. If you can't find canned tomatoes with green chilies, use regular canned tomatoes and half of a 4 ounce can of green chilies. Canned chilis can be found in the Mexican aisle of the supermarket, usually near the taco mixes. Make sure that the regular canned tomatoes are not the Italian flavored kind with basil.
2. If you don't have smoked chilies, try substituting cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes. Start with 1/4 of a teaspoon and then give the soup a taste test about 5 minutes later. You need to wait a little while to allow the flavor to develop. If you want more spice, you can add more, 1/4 of a teaspoon at a time, until the desired spiciness is achieved. If you make a mistake and the soup is now too spicy, add an extra cup of broth to dilute the heat.

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