My mantra during cold-weather months: "When in doubt, serve soup." On countless occasions, I've asked friends over for soup and salad before or after movies. And sometimes I have organized buffets at which two or three soup tureens were offered with breads and dessert for large gatherings.
Most soups can be made well in advance. The recipes can be doubled or tripled without problem, and the hearty ones easily can become the anchors of a meal.
Several days ago I worked out a variation of classic black bean soup. I cooked small bits of kielbasa with onions and generous seasonings of oregano and red pepper flakes. Then I added beans, soaked by the quick method of covering them with hot water for an hour. I simmered the mixture in chicken broth until tender and then added orange juice as a crisp, clear accent to the assertive taste of the beans.
Rosbottom is the author of "American Favorites" (Chapters Publishing, 1996).
BLACK BEAN SOUP WITH A HINT OF ORANGE
1 pound dried black beans
6 cups boiling water
1 tablespoon oil
1/2 pound kielbasa, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
2 cups chopped onions
1 1/2 tablespoons dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
7 to 8 cups chicken broth
1 cup orange juice
1/3 cup regular or reduced-fat sour cream
2 teaspoons very finely sliced orange peel
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley or cilantro
Place beans in large bowl and cover with boiling water. Let soak 1 hour. Drain and set aside.
Heat oil in large, heavy, deep-sided pan with lid over medium heat. When hot, add kielbasa cubes and saute, stirring, 3 minutes. Add onions and cook, stirring, 3 minutes. Add oregano, red pepper flakes and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring, 1 minute.
Add drained beans and 7 cups broth and bring mixture to simmer. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until beans are tender, about 1 hour. Remove lid. (If too much liquid has evaporated, add up to remaining 1 cup broth. If soup seems too thin, cook, uncovered, until desired thickness.) Add orange juice and cook 1 minute more. Taste and add more salt if needed. (Soup can be made up to 2 days ahead. Cool, cover and refrigerate. Reheat, uncovered, stirring often, over low heat.)
Divide soup among 6 bowls. Garnish center of each serving with 1 tablespoon sour cream, then sprinkle with 1/3 teaspoon sliced orange peel and 1 teaspoon parsley or cilantro.
6 servings. Each serving:
479 calories; 1,322 mg sodium; 26 mg cholesterol; 16 grams fat; 59 grams carbohydrates; 27 grams protein; 4.40 grams fiber.