There was so much going on this January—our visit to our friends in Virginia, Thrift Week, Winter Storm Jonas, and my belated birthday dinner with my folks—that I completely forgot about coming up with a Recipe of the Month. Fortunately, Brian took care of it for me by preparing a black bean soup out of our food Bible, Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, on the last day of the month. So even though this entry is a little late, the recipe itself actually squeezed in ahead of the deadline.
Visually, this soup isn't very exciting. It's basically an undifferentiated brown slurry...and since we served it with Brian's new brown bread (recipe to come once he's perfected it), the entire meal was brown. But taste-wise, it's quite flavorful, heavy on the cumin and brightened up with a splash each of sherry and lime juice. Brian also used Penzey's vegetable stock as a base, which makes any soup more savory.
So on the whole, this soup wasn't bad, but it wasn't terribly exciting. To me, I think, it was the uniform texture that made it less interesting. Most of my favorite soups are chunky ones, with lots of different flavors and textures in each spoonful: pasta e fagioli, loaded with beans and veggies and pasta; mushroom barley, with the chewy barley grains set off by the larger pieces of savory mushroom; matzo ball, with the tender matzo balls and chewy bits of carrot and celery gloating in a warm, salty broth. So this basic brown soup, even with its abundance of seasoning, felt a bit...meh.
Brian, however, quite liked it and expressed an interest in making it again, as long as I didn't object. I didn't exactly dislike the soup, though I wouldn't want to eat it for several days in a row—but as long as Brian is willing to dispose of the leftovers, I don't mind a bowlful of this for dinner every now and then. Although next time, perhaps, I might prefer a different sort of bread with it, just to give the meal as a whole a bit more variety. Perhaps a chewy sourdough would provide enough of a contrast in flavor and texture to make the soup more interesting.