I love to travel. My somewhat nomadic childhood might be to blame, but there’s nothing quite like the thrill of planning a trip, discovering a new place, and, of course, eating the local food. My friend from high school, Cristina, is from Central Mexico. After college (we also overlapped there), she moved home. I had visited her before, back when we were young and tan and we ate smoked oysters and cheese and slept in hammocks at her aunt’s house in Tulum. We saw a real pirate on the beach and jaguars in the jungle. It was one of those trips. Magic.
A few years ago, I began visiting her again. She has a small goat farm and makes her own goat cheese. I’ve brought a couple of friends down to visit and we’ve returned relaxed, full of fresh cocada (the coconut candy), stuffed full of Cris’s amazing goat cheese. We might have a turkey egg for breakfast, fried with a bit of homemade oven-roasted tomatoes, crispy blue gorditas made from local blue corn and hand ground. I bottle fed Lupita, the baby goat and snacked on freshly made churros in the local market. I bought bags of dried chilis and stash them in my pantry next to cones of non-processed sugar, piloncillo. Sweet and smoky, the cones are a perfect addition to beans.
This year, we’re taking the kids. Until then, I have my chili peppers to tide me over. And tonight, this soup.
Black Bean Soup with Piloncillo and Mexican Peppers
1 lb black beans
vegetable stock (enough to cover beans)
1 cone piloncillo (Mexican unrefined sugar)
3 large dried chili peppers of your choice
1 red onion, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp mustard
2 tbsp pomegranate molasses
1 big pinch sea salt
Soak beans overnight. Drain most of the liquid but not all. Add stock to cover and set to boil. Meanwhile, put the piloncillo cone, peppers, and onion in a skillet with the olive oil. Start the heat at high and once onions are sizzling and the sugar is melting, reduce to medium. You’ll want to tend to this so the sugar doesn’t burn, tossing everything together. Let cook for about 25 minutes. The beans are done when you can mush them but they aren’t totally pasty. Add the mustard, molasses, and sea salt. Add everything from the skillet, taking care to chop the chilis and deseed (the more seeds the spicier your soup). Use hand-held blender and puree to desired texture. Serve hot or cold, topped with a bit of greens or diced red pepper.