When I was in sixth grade, our social studies unit for the year focused on the history of Latin America and Canada. Why Latin America and Canada? I have no idea. I just know that was the social studies curriculum for California sixth graders in the late 70s. Fourth graders had California history, fifth graders had U.S. history and, well, I’ve already mentioned the sixth grade curriculum.
One of our assignments during the year was to do a major report on either one of the Latin American countries or Canadian provinces. If I recall correctly, we may have been allowed to request a country to report on (there were more students than countries or provinces, so some of us had to double up). However, the report subject was ultimately determined by Mrs. Ortega, our teacher, and I was assigned to report on Brazil.
To this day, there are a few facts that I recall about Brazil and it’s history, culture, economy, etc. from that report There are the obvious things—like Portuguese being the national language or the famous statue of Christ overlooking Rio de Janeiro, Sugarloaf, the funky mountain sticking out of the ocean, or that the Amazon is the world’s longest river.
Less obvious was my finding something somewhere in my research that said Black Bean Soup (feijoada) was the national dish of Brazil. I guess my interest in food had already started to develop by the sixth grade because I was totally fascinated by this fact. And being a kid who was a bit of an overachiever, I even went so far as to include a recipe that I found for Brazilian Black Bean soup in my report. I did not, if you’re asking, go so far as to make the soup and take it to class. I might have been an overachiever, but I wasn’t a brown noser!
For some odd reason, the memory of this black bean soup recipe has stuck with me over the years. Not that I recall the recipe verbatim. I just thought it sounded really delicious. Delicious enough that I really wanted to make it someday. I also recall that, as an 11-year old, it sounded really complicated—I seem to recall the recipe having lots and lots and lots of ingredients. I also believe it had more than one or two different kinds of meat in it—probably a ham hock, and I remember there was some sort of special sausage I’d never heard of that was native to Brazil or Portugal or something. It may well have been linguica, who knows… Making the soup also seemed to be a fairly involved process that took days to get all the flavors to meld. That’s probably an exaggeration of memory—it might have only taken the good part of one day – I feel like the cooking time was at least 10 hours, but again, who knows… (I found some 18 hour recipes for feijoada online, so I guess my memories from adolescence were not an exaggeration!)
I’m not sure whatever happened to that report. It’s either in a box at my parent’s house or in one of the boxes they shipped to me a couple years ago to clear out their basement or the thing was tossed long ago. I don’t know if that one got kept for posterity along with other various and sundry childhood memorabilia. I sort of wish I did know where that report was because I’ve often wondered what it would be like to make that Brazilian Black Bean soup. I was also intrigued by the recipe because I’d never had black beans before. At the time, I’d never even seen a black bean. In the late 70s, black beans did not enjoy the popularity they do today—even in the earthy, crunchy, Mexican and vegetarian food capital that was 70s California. Pinto beans, yeah. Those were a staple of any Mexican food meal (refried, of course) either at restaurants or at taco night at our house, but black beans? No.
The below is nothing like the real feijoada recipe that I was so fascinated by as a child. There’s no sausage in it, but there is turkey bacon and chicken stock (veggie would also be fine).You could add meat if you wanted to. I just had a hankering for soup and wanted to try one I hadn’t made before. I’ve made some really quick and dirty black bean soups using canned beans before, but this was my first attempt using dry beans, which has really been more out of convenience than anything else. (Taking the time to soak legumes overnight, even though you don’t really have to do anything has just always seemed like such a fuss.) I used the turkey bacon because I wanted a bit of smokiness in the soup, and I’m not a big ham fan–but if you’re into that sort of pig stuff, by all means, go ahead and use it! And since it’s pumpkin season, and I spied a couple recipes online in my inspiration searches that called for pumpkin, I thought “why not add some?” It’s extra fiber and veggies!
So I give you Black Bean Soup with Turkey Bacon and Pumpkin. It’s not the recipe I was so drawn to in sixth grade, but I can now say I have made black bean soup from scratch, even if it took me over 30 years to do it!
Black Bean Soup with Turkey Bacon and Pumpkin
1 lb. black beans, soaked
4-5 slices turkey bacon, cut in small dice
½ lg. onion, minced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
½ red pepper, minced
½ yellow pepper, minced
1 small carrot, diced
8 c. chicken stock
2 bay leaves
¼ c. chopped cilantro
2 tbsp. cumin
1 tbsp. marjoram
1 can pureed pumpkin
1) Place dried beans in bowl. Cover with water, 1-2 inches higher than the bean level. Soak for at least 1 hour beforehand.
2) Drizzle 2-3 tbsp. olive oil in stockpot. Brown turkey bacon in oil until it reaches desired crispness.
3) When bacon is done, layer and sauté vegetables, beginning with onion, then garlic, peppers and carrot. Sauté until all veggies are fairly soft.
4) Add 2-4 cups of stock, then blend veggie and stock mixture so that veggies are completely broken down. (If you prefer your vegetables chunky, do not blend.) Add remaining stock.
5) Drain beans, then combine with stock and veggies in the stockpot. Season with spices.
6) Bring to boil, then drop pumpkin into soup.
7) Simmer until beans are softened.
8) Blend ½-3/4 of the soup in blender or with hand mixture to create a semi-creamy texture.
9) Top with any combo of the following: sour cream/crema, more chopped cilantro, cheese or queso fresco, avocado. Serve with crusty bread or tortilla chips on the side.
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