There is nothing more perfect than this on a hot summer day. Drink it from a cup, plain with no garnishes, or serve it in a bowl.
1 slice red or white onion
1 ounce stale French bread, crusts removed (2 to 4 thick slices)
1 pound ripe tomatoes, cored and peeled
2 to 4 garlic cloves, to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 to 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar or wine vinegar (to taste)
1/2 to 1 teaspoon sweet paprika (to taste)
1/2 to 1 cup ice water, depending on how thick you want your soup to be
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup finely chopped cucumber (more to taste)
1/2 cup finely chopped tomato (more to taste)
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil or parsley
1/2 cup finely chopped green pepper
1/2 cup small croutons
1 hardboiled egg, finely chopped
1. Place the onion in a bowl and cover with cold water. Let sit 5 minutes, drain and rinse.
2. Place the bread in a bowl and sprinkle with enough water to soften it. Let sit 5 minutes, until soft enough to squeeze, and squeeze out the water.
3. Combine the bread, tomatoes, garlic, onion. Olive oil, vinegar, paprika, and salt in a blender and blend until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings. Pour into a bowl or pitcher, thin out as desired with water, cover and chill for several hours.
4. Meanwhile, prepare the garnishes, if using. Place them in small bowls on a platter. Serve the soup in glasses if it’s a very hot day and you aren’t serving garnishes (I like to serve it this way with drinks, before we sit down to dinner). Otherwise, serve it in bowls and pass the tray of garnishes.
This will keep for a day or two in the refrigerator.
Black Bean Chili
This is a medium-hot vegetarian chili. Make it hotter if you prefer 3-alarm, by using hot ground chili or adding more medium chili.
1 recipe simmered black beans (use this recipe, substituting black beans for the pintos)
2 tablespoons canola or grapeseed oil
1 onion, finely chopped
4 large garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons mild ground chili (or use hot, or use more)
1 tablespoon lightly toasted cumin seeds, ground
1 28-ounce can chopped tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste dissolved in 1 cup water
1 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican oregano
Salt, preferably kosher salt, to taste
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
4 ounces goat cheese or queso fresco (also known as queso ranchero), crumbled
1. Make the black beans as directed, preferably the day before you wish to serve.
2. Heat the oil in a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat and add the onion. Cook, stirring often, until the onion is lightly colored, about 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic, stir together for about a minute, until fragrant, and add the ground chili and cumin. Cook, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes, until the mixture begins to stick to the pan. Add the tomatoes and oregano, and salt to taste. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring often, until the tomatoes have cooked down and the mixture is beginning to stick to the pan, about 10 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste dissolved in water and the chipotles and bring back to a simmer. Season with salt to taste and simmer, stirring often, for 15 minutes, until the mixture is thick and fragrant.
3. Stir the tomato mixture into the beans and bring to a simmer. Simmer, stirring often and scraping the bottom of the pot, for 30 to 45 minutes. Taste and adjust salt.
4. Just before serving, stir in the cilantro. Spoon into bowls and garnish each bowl with a generous spoonful of goat cheese or queso fresco. Serve with corn tortillas or cornbread.
Yield: Serves 6 to 8
Advance preparation: The simmered beans can be made 3 or 4 days ahead and the chili will keep for 3 or 4 days in the refrigerator. This freezes well.