Two types of pepper, sweet red bell and fiery jalapeño, conspire to give this rib-sticking soup a mild kick. Speaking of kicks, dry sherry is a traditional flavoring for black bean soup, but you can skip it and still have a great soup. Except for the chicken broth, this soup doesn't have any meat in it. If it strikes your fancy, add some sautéed spicy sausage (a Mexican chorizo would be perfect) or crumbled bacon once the soup is puréed.
Servings: Makes 6 servings
Ingredients 2 tablespoons olive oil1 medium onion , chopped1 red bell pepper , ribs and seeds discarded, chopped1 jalapeno , ribs and seeds discarded, chopped2 cloves garlic , minced3 cans (15 to 19 ounces) black beans , drained and rinsed1 quart reduced-sodium chicken broth1/3 cup dry sherry , optionalSalt and freshly ground pepper , to tasteMake-Ahead Salsa or store-bought salsa and sour cream and chopped, fresh cilantro , for garnish
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, bell pepper and jalapeño. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables soften, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and stir until it gives off its aroma, about 1 minute.
Stir in the beans and broth. Bring to a simmer over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and partially cover the pot. Simmer for 30 minutes. During the last 5 minutes, stir in the sherry, if using.
In batches, transfer the soup to a blender, process until smooth, and pour the puréed soup into a large bowl. (If you have an immersible hand blender, you can purée the soup right in the pot.) Season the soup with salt and pepper.
Serve the soup hot, with bowls of the salsa, sour cream, and cilantro passed on the side so each person can add whatever toppings they like.