We spent Thanksgiving with my family in Maryland which meant that we spent all of Sunday driving home, then unpacking and attempting to reregulate our delicate nervous systems. The holiday was wonderful, truly joy-filled. The comedown from it, especially for the Raffi among us, has been pretty brutal!
I had done my best, as we prepared to leave, to make our apartment pleasant to come home to: fresh sheets on the bed, essentials stocked in the fridge. But by midday yesterday somehow the place was a dump and there was nothing to eat for dinner. I had to run around all day and I didn't get a chance to grocery shop until I was bringing Raffi home from school. This isn't an ideal scenario on any front; it's the worst time of day to shop, the store nearest my apartment is serviceable but idiosyncratic and overpriced, and Raffi is not a good shopping companion. He wanders off and gets lost, then agitates for gummi worms and Cocoa Puffs. My fantasy was to grab what I needed and be in and out in 10 minutes, which is never realistic under any circumstances, especially not these.
The meal I was shopping for has been in my repertoire since the early 00s. It's historically something I make when I am out of ideas and trying to stretch a dollar. What I like about it is that the ingredients are always available and affordable and everyone likes it, except, obviously, my children. They prefer beans straight from the can, accompanied by flour tortillas straight from the bag. No one can dissuade them from these frankly idiotic preferences right now and I am not about to waste valuable energy trying.
I started making a version of this soup when I lived in Greenpoint. I would shop for the ingredients either at the big Key Food across McGuinness or the C-Town on Manhattan Ave. My brain still contains maps of both of these stores, as they were in 2003-2007, I realized as I located the Goya brand chorizo in the Food Emporium last night. Stores are often confused about where to shelve this stuff; does it require refrigeration or not? Does it belong with the other sausages or should it live alongside the bacon? Some stores even stick it in the Goya section next to the cans of beans and boxes of rice! Bold, admirable, but maybe dangerous. If the store has a regular cheese section and a fancy cheese/deli section, the Goya chorizo sometimes winds up in the latter. It could be lurking anywhere, is what I'm saying. Seeking it out is maybe the most important part of making this soup.
Or is it? I've never actually tried this, but I bet if you didn't eat chorizo and weren't finding a good vegan-rizo in your store you could add something else extremely savory instead. I've seen a handful of recipes for black bean soup that contain alcaparrado or some variation on that theme of briny chopped pimientos, green olives and capers. They usually add it after the sofrito step, closer to the end of cooking.
The nice thing about using chorizo though is that it's so highly seasoned that you can skip adding any other spices, making the whole thing a real no-brainer. I start by cooking down finely chopped onion, red pepper and cilantro stems in olive oil with a little tiny bit of salt and pepper, then I add the chopped chorizo and let it render its bright-red fat as the vegetables get even softer. After that I add a big can of black beans and a quart of chicken stock, veg stock or even just water, depending on what I've got around. Acid is important at the end to counter the fatty salty porky thing; lots of lime juice is ideal but vinegar also works. Taste for seasoning; if it needs any additional salt I would be surprised. That's the whole thing. You serve it with rice. Extra credit: cheese or yogurt or sour cream plus the leafy part of the cilantro.
In some part of my mind I knew I had written about this soup before, so I googled my own name + "black bean and chorizo soup" and found this blog post from 2008.
Wow! So much has changed since 2008. For one thing, my preference in chorizo seems to have shifted from "fresh" to the salami type. Also I added the pepper in an additional later step of the recipe which is clearly unnecessary.
I also was doing a sort of cutesy self-deprecating blog voice, very "main character energy" as the kids now say. I seemed to presume that a lot of people were interested in my soup, which rings false to me now. Obviously there are a lot of newsletterers out there with far, far greater soup expertise and experience.
This prompted a rabbit hole of delving back into my blog past, which is also a map of the dominant blogging platforms of the past 2 decades. From my Wordpress blog to my Tumblr to my Tinyletter to my Substack newsletter to this newsletter on a more generic platform, it's dizzying and jarring and occasionally reassuring to see that I am ... so consistent. The world changes around me and I beat myself up for not writing (while writing), make soup, feel broke, feel inspired, feel uninspired, create these word-doodles about my day to day. I didn't have to scroll back very far to find a post from 2015 that's basically a draft version of my recent driving newsletter.
Am I running low on material or is the nature of life inherently cyclical? I had to wonder!
This week's premium newsletter will cover the last 3 media experiences I consumed: a book, a movie, and a tv show. Stay tuned! xoxo