Black bean soup with chicken

Published On: May 01 2012 11:14:47 AM PDT   Updated On: Sep 21 2012 02:51:02 AM PDT
Black bean soup

Makes 4 servings

Most often, cream is the thickening element in soups; here, puréed beans provide the texture. The result is a bean soup with plenty of body, flavor, nutrients -- and lower fat. Jalapeño pepper and cumin lend the soup a zesty flavor; adjust the amounts to suit your taste. As a garnish or accompaniment, serve tortilla strips.

2 tablespoons olive oil

Divided 8 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cut into ½-inch squares

1 rib celery, chopped

¼ cup chopped onion

2 teaspoons minced fresh jalapeño pepper, seeds removed

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 cups canned chicken broth

One 15-ounce can diced tomatoes, with juice

One 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon pepper, or to taste

1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro, or to taste (do not substitute dried coriander - if fresh is unavailable, substitute 1 tablespoon minced fresh or 1 teaspoon dried basil or oregano)

Dollops of sour cream, diced red bell peppers, and sprigs of fresh cilantro for garnish

Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the chicken; cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, or until it is cooked through and lightly browned. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken to a bowl and cover to keep warm.

Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in the pan. Add the celery and onion; cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes. Add the jalapeño pepper and garlic; continue to cook, stirring constantly, for 1 more minute, or until the vegetables are tender.

Stir in the chicken broth, tomatoes with juice, beans, cumin, pepper, and dried basil or oregano (if using).

Transfer about one half of the soup mixture to a food processor or blender; purée until smooth. Pour back into the pan; stir in the cooked chicken and fresh cilantro (if using). Heat, stirring occasionally. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Garnish servings with sour cream, bell peppers, and cilantro sprigs.