Sunday, February 23, 2014

Black Bean Soup with Seared Scallops or Shrimp and Green Salsa

The idea of concentrated soup base just isn't getting old, and as I suspected, this series of black bean soups is just as delicious as the sweet potato one. The sweet potato soups may have explored a more diverse spectrum of flavors, but this black bean soup base has lent itself exceptionally to Mexican-inspired dishes. It was first put to good use in a spicy tortilla variation, now topped generously with tender seafood and an exceptionally fresh salsa. The contrast between the the hearty soup and the fresh salsa is striking, and in the best possible way. Each bite of the black bean soup is thick and silky, punctuated perfectly by he crunchy electric green salsa. The heat from the ancho chiles in the base is subtle and smooth, but the salsa brings a bright and assertive heat of its own, tempered just enough by the creamy avocado. This filling bowl is certainly a meal on its own, but a handful of tortilla chips are an ideal final touch, perfect for crumbling over the top or scooping up generous bites.

Black Bean Soup with Seared Scallops or Shrimp and Green Salsa
adpated from Serve Yourself by Joe Yonan
serves 1

1 to 1 1/2 cups Spicy Black Bean Soup Base (see below), defrosted if frozen
Up to 1/2 cup water or chicken or vegetable stock
1/2 to 1 serrano or jalapeno chile
1/4 barely ripe avocado, peeled, pitted, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 small tomatillo, husk removed, rinsed, and cut into 1/2-inch slices
1 very small shallot love, finely chopped
Finely grated zest of 1 lime
Juice of 1/2 lime
1 teaspon agave nectar or honey
3 large sea scallops (about 3 ounces), or 3 ounces large to extra-large shrimp
Kosher or sea salt
1 tablespoon peanut, vegetable, or canola oil

1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, warm the soup base, then whisk in enough water or stock to reach your desired consistency. Cook for a few minutes to heat the soup through, then decrease the heat to lovw, cover, and keep it hot while you make your topping.

2. Remove the stem from the serrano and scrape out the ribs and seeds, reserving the seeds. Finely chop half the serrano, then transfer it to a small bowl. Add the avocado, tomatillo, shallot, cilantr, lime zest and juice, and agave nectar; stir to combine. Taste, and if you want the salsa spicier, add some of the serrano seeds and/or the other half of the serrano, finely chopped. 

3. Remove the large side muscle from the scallops. Then, unless they're dry-packed scallops, rinse them and thoroughly pat dry. Season the scallops with salt on each side.

4. Pour the oil into a medium skillet over medium-high heat. When it starts to shimmer, add the scallops or shrimp, making sure they aren't touching each other. Sear until they have a 1/4-inch-deep golden crust, 1 to 2 minutes. Turn them over and sear on the other side for another minute or so. Scallops should still be slightly springy to the touch,and you should be able to tell on the sides that the middle is still slightly translucent. Transfer them to a plate.

5. Ladle the soup into a wide, shallow bowl, top the salsa and then the scallops, and eat.

Spicy Black Bean Soup Base
from Joe Yonan's Serve Yourself
makes 4 to 5 cups

2 dried ancho, guajillo, or New Mexico chiles, or more to taste
1/2 pound dried black beans (1 heaping cup)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 carrot, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 celery stalk, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 shallot loves or 1/2 small onion, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 large garlic clove, chopped
Pinch of ground cinnamon
Pinch of ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt, plus more as needed

1. Tear, break, or use scissors to cut the anchos into small strips or pieces. Combine them with the bean in a large bowl and add enough water to cover by 1 inch. Let soak for at least 6 hours or overnight.

2. Pour the oil into a 3-quart saucepan over medium heat. When the oil starts to shimmer, add the carrot, celery shallots, garlic, cinnamon, and allspice. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook the vegetables slowly until they start to become tender, about 10 minutes.

3. Add the beans, chiles, their soaking liquid, and enough water to cover the beans by 1 inch. Increase the heat to high to bring the contents to a boil. Then decrease the heat to low so that the liquid is at a bare simmer.

4. Cover and gently cook until the beans are very tender, 1 to 2 hours, depending on the age of the beans. Add the salt, cook for a few more minutes, then let cool for 10 to 15 minutes.

5. Use a handheld immersion blender to puree the soup, then taste and adjust the salt if needed. (Alternatively, you can puree it in a blender or food processor. If you are using a blender, be sure to remove the center cap on the lid and cover with a dish towel to let steam escape, and work in small batches to avoid splattering the soup.

6. Divide it into 4 portions and use immediately, refrigerate up to 1 week, or freeze in small containers or heavy-duty freezer-safe resealable plastic bags, pressing as much air out of the bag as possible before sealing. It will keep frozen for several months.

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