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The Honolulu Advertiser

By Wanda Adams

Posted on: Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Warm up with a spicy black bean soup

 • Low and slow


Find food editor Wanda Adams' "My Island Plate" blog online every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at www.honoluluadvertiser.com/islandlife.

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After what seems like an interminable absence, I'm finally back at my desk, flinging e-mails left and right, trying to remember where I filed everything, recovering from shooting the photos for my fourth cookbook (shameless self-promotion: It's due out in the fall and it's about how we celebrate holidays in the Islands).

Also, delightfully, opening mail.

One letter I had been sent a few weeks ago came in particularly handy. This morning, it was so cold (my sister-in-law in Kansas is laughing her head off right now), I turned the heat on in the car. I started thinking of soup. Hot, spicy soup.

Then I remembered the black bean soup sent to me by Susan Iwata, whose husband Nao is an owner of Kahai Street Kitchen.

It's a spicy chipotle soup, and Susan explains that you can use the dried peppers or the canned ones in adobo sauce.

She says the dried chipotles are often too mild.

But the canned stuff? If you haven't worked with it, watch out! A teaspoon of the sauce in a two-person-size casserole can set your hair aflame. It's so hot that you can put it in the fridge in an airtight container and, believe me, nothing can live in there. You can make one can last half a year. (Well, maybe I exaggerate.)

A chipotle is actually a dried, smoked red jalapeno. Adobo, in this case, is not the thin, vinegary-based treatment for pork so beloved of the Philippines. The word means seasoning or marinade and indicates a family of sauces and marinades that differ widely throughout the world that was influenced by the Spanish. The adobo (it comes in a small can and is widely available in grocery stores) is composed of vinegar, tomato, spices and the whole chilies.

It is most often used in soups and stews, chilies and Mexican-style casseroles, but there are many other ways to make use of the hot stuff. On Chowhound.com, they suggest mixing a bit with a can of refried beans to make a dip. I'd add some cream cheese or Mexican-style white cheese. Just go easy.

But back to soup: It's simple, it's warming, it's something anyone can do.

Thank you, Susan.


• Olive oil, for sauteing

• 1 medium-large onion, diced

• 3 cloves garlic, chopped

• Oregano, cumin, salt and black pepper to taste

• 1 dried chipotle, reconstituted in warm water for 10-15 minutes*

• 2 (14.5-ounce) cans black beans (preferably low- sodium)

• 2 (14.5-ounce) cans low-sodium chicken broth (or half broth, half water)

In a medium-sized saucepan on medium heat, saute the onion and garlic in a little olive oil. After the onions have softened, sprinkl e in oregano, cumin and salt and pepper to taste. Next throw in the chipotle. Saute for a minute or two. Throw in the beans as well as the liquid from the cans. Stir well, allow to cook for a few minutes and then add chicken broth. Cover and allow to simmer 15-20 minutes. You can serve as is or puree in food processor or blender.

Susan likes to serve this with a dollop of sour cream or yogurt (I would recommend Greek yogurt).

*You have two options here: sliced dried chipotles or one or at most two, plus some juice, from a can of chipotles en adobo. Just depends how hot you like it. The canned stuff, though convenient, is much, much hotter.

Send recipe requests to Wanda Adams, Food Editor, The Honolulu Advertiser, P.O. Box 3110, Honolulu, HI 96802; fax, 525-8055; e-mail wadams@honoluluadvertiser.com.