Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Making Do: Making Soup

I don't seek out or enjoy hardship, but I do appreciate that "going without" makes me more creative. When grocery shopping isn't an option (because I'm out of money or stuck at home, like I am today), I do the best I can with what's on hand. This turned out pretty well using nothing more than pantry staples:

Tomato, Corn, and Black Bean Chowder
  • nonstick vegetable spray or a few teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 1 smallish onion, coarsely chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1 small carrot, finely chopped (about 1/4 cup)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic (put through a garlic press or minced)
  • chili powder, to taste (I used about 2 T.)
  • cayenne pepper, to taste (I used maybe 1/2 t.)
  • 2 cans (15 oz. each) diced tomatoes in juice
  • water (about one tomato-can full)
  • 2 cups corn kernels (I used frozen, but canned/drained would work)
  • 1 can (15 oz.) black beans (I didn't bother draining them)
Using nonstick vegetable spray or a little vegetable oil, cook the onion and carrot until the onion is clear. Add the garlic, chili powder, and cayenne pepper. Cook, stirring constantly, until the spices are fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the canned tomatoes and a canful of water. Simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the carrot is tender and the flavors have blended (I think I gave it 15 minutes or so). Turn off the heat. Using an immersion blender and great caution, process the soup until smooth. (If you don't have an immersion blender, you could do this in 2 batches in a regular blender, but please be very careful with hot liquids!) Return the soup to the heat, add the corn and black beans, and simmer until the corn is tender, stirring occasionally. Add more water if the soup is too thick for you. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.

As with most soups/stews, the flavor will be better if you refrigerate it overnight and reheat it. Serve hot, garnished with whatever you've got on hand: shredded cheese, sour cream, diced avocado, chopped cilantro, diced chicken or beef, etc.

If I'd had some canned green chiles on hand, I would have added those along with the corn and beans, but it was still pretty tasty without them. The carrot wasn't strictly necessary, but adding minced or shredded veggies to a soup, especially one you're going to puree, is a good way to boost nutrition and use up odds and ends, and it might have added a little sweetness to the soup. Pinto or kidney beans would have worked well in place of black beans.

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