Fresh Tomato and Black Bean Soup

Last week I went out to assess my tomato plants.  There were some tomatoes trying to ripen and, of course, plenty of green ones.  I pushed a few of the branches aside and found this:

These were the last of the summer tomatoes that actually ripened on the vines.  And they were beauties!  As the week went on, and the numbers dwindled (as I made sandwiches and salads), I found myself thinking of the best way to enjoy those last few tomatoes.  This soup is the answer.  It has the light and fresh flavor of the tomatoes and some substance from the black beans.  The seasonings are Mexican; fresh chiles, cilantro, cumin, and lime.  It’s like your favorite salsa, in the form of a spicy, warming, delicious soup.  A perfect lunch or dinner first course on a cool autumn day, this is one to try before those precious summer tomatoes are just a memory.

Fresh Tomato and Black Bean Soup
(serves 4 to 6)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 large red onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 or 2 jalapenos, seeded and finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin seed
2 1/2 cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock), preferably homemade
1 cup tomato sauce
14 ounces ripe tomatoes, cored, seeded, and finely chopped
1 (14-ounce ) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves, chopped (or 1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves)
A pinch of sugar
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
The juice of 1 lime
A small bunch of cilantro, coarsely chopped
Sour cream, to serve (optional)
Heat the olive oil in a heavy 4-quart saucepan over medium-low heat.  Add the onion and saute for about 5 minutes, until softened.  Add the garlic, chile(s), and cumin and stir together for a minute.  Add the stock, tomato sauce, tomatoes, black beans, oregano, and sugar.  Season with salt and pepper, bring to a boil, and simmer gently for 10 minutes.  Remove form the heat and add the lime juice and half of the cilantro.  Taste and adjust the seasoning, if necessary.  Serve the soup topped with sour cream, if you like, and the remainder of the cilantro.  You could also garnish the soup with a little additional chopped red onion, or diced ripe avocado.  Store any leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
(minimally adapted from “River Cottage Veg” by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall)

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