Gastronomi Klonowski: Joey’s Black Bean Soup

Gastronomi Klonowski: Joey’s Black Bean Soup

This recipe comes from the nostalgic depths of the Klonowski family cookbook. It’s ceremoniously named for my brother Joey, who always asked for it on his birthday (we’re both winter babies so sadly we could never request bratwursts at the ballpark).

Aging and the real world caught up with us, and my brother and I haven’t lived under the same roof in years. I probably haven’t had this soup in just as long, ever since he started spending his birthdays at college in California.

But as I was debating what dish to write about this week, this popped into my head for a few reasons. First, Joey turned 24 not too long ago. I know he was away from his Seattle home that weekend, but I hope his old birthday favorite at least crossed his mind. Second, it’s a great winter soup that warms the heart, soul and most importantly the stomach. The Minnesota winter will almost certainly last for another month at least, so I thought it’d be a good dish to revive. Third, you have the option to make it in a slow cooker. I’ve written a few times before about the glorious simplicity of this wonderful invention, even if the one at my house isn’t technically mine. If you don’t have a slow cooker, you can adapt the recipe to make it in a regular pot, but definitely get one for next time because they’re fantastic.

When my dad used to make this at home, he would always blend the soup after cooking with a tool built specifically for the purpose, a very strange contraption which he called a “blender wand.” If you don’t have a blender wand (or indeed, have never heard of such a thing), you need not worry. The job can just as easily be done in a smoothie blender, although you’ll probably have to pass it through in sections unless your blender is comically large. Or, if you’re like me and don’t even have a blender (PLEASE tag me in Free and For Sale if you’re selling one), you can mash everything together as best you can with a big spoon. Whatever method you adopt, the idea is to end up with a thick, yet smooth soup that pairs wonderfully with a little greek yogurt or shredded mozzarella.

Speaking of things you can add, my family never once had this soup without a loaf of fresh, fancy bread. My brother and I used to ride the commuter train each day to our high school on the University of Chicago’s campus. Like most college neighborhoods, there were a plethora of restaurants and shops, including a great bakery a block from our school. Whenever my dad made hot soup, it’d be my job to pick up some good bread on my way to the train. Olive ciabatta was always our favorite, but sourdough was a close second on days when the bakery was sold out of their best stuff. As it happens, we also have a great bakery here at Mac. When you go to get a loaf at Breadsmith I recommend also treating yourself to one of their dangerously addictive cranberry scones.

I hope you’re as excited to try this recipe as I am to revisit it! Unfortunately my brother won’t be there, but I can at least send him a photo or mail him some of the leftovers. As always, Bon Appetit.

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