One of my favorite ways to cook collard greens—and the best way to get my daughter to eat them—is to simmer them in soup. There’s something magical about adding a huge pile of greens to a pot, an amount so big that the lid can barely be squeezed shut, and then coming back a few minutes later to find that the greens have melted into the soup. It’s a disappearing act that intrigues even my greens-hating daughter, who always wants to be the one to add the greens and impatiently waits until it’s time to remove the cover and reveal the “miracle.” The most miraculous thing about the whole transformation is that she eats more greens because of it. She can’t quite bring herself to “like” them, but she’ll tolerate them if she’s had a hand in their preparation.
I’ve cooked collard green soups with white beans, with black-eyed peas, and with no beans at all, but never with black beans until recently. I wanted to do something a little different than my Stormy Black Bean Soup (still my favorite) and settled on a combination of seasonings based loosely on Jamaican jerk seasoning—allspice, nutmeg, thyme, and pepper—with a little ginger thrown in for fun. What holds it all together, though, is the sweetness and acidity of orange juice, added just at the end of cooking. Try it with fresh-squeezed juice, if you have it.
A word about chili powder: In the U.S., chili powder can have a couple of different meanings. In most grocery stores, the chili powder that you find in the spice aisle is a combination of powdered chilies and other seasonings, including cumin and salt. What I used in this recipe was a pure chili powder—ground chile peppers and nothing else—and if you read a lot of ingredient labels, you may be able to find it marked simply as “chili powder,” but more often to get it you have to buy a specific type, such as Ancho chile powder. (Note: If you buy chili powder in an Indian grocery, it will be hot; I find it hotter than cayenne.) I used Ancho here because it’s mild and delivers a chile flavor without heat (I used a little chipotle for that), but feel free to use whatever chile powder you like, as long as it’s pure; the other spices in American chili powder will change the flavor of the soup.
Tropical Black Bean and Collard Green Soup
- 1 pound dried black beans (about 2 cups)
- 1 large onion , chopped
- 3 ribs celery , diced
- 4 cloves garlic , minced
- 2 tablespoons ginger-root , minced
- 1 teaspoon thyme
- 1 1/2 teaspoon Ancho chili powder (or other pure, mild chili powder)
- 1/4 teaspoon chipotle chili powder or cayenne
- 1/4 teaspoon allspice
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 cup carrots , diced or sliced
- 2 cloves garlic , minced (or to taste)
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- additional chili powder , to taste
- salt , to taste
- 12 ounces collard greens , cut into bite-sized pieces (or use the greens of your choice)
- 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
- 1 orange , sliced, for garnish
Rinse the beans and pick over them to remove any debris. Cover with water and either allow to soak at least 8 hours or do a quick soak by bringing to a boil for 1 minute and then allowing to soak for an hour. Keep soaking until you are ready to cook, and then drain the soaking liquid.
Heat a large pot or pressure cooker; spray lightly with olive oil if desired. Add the onion and celery and cook, stirring, until softened. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for another minute.
Add the drained beans, 7 cups of water (6 if pressure cooking), thyme, chili powders, allspice, and nutmeg. Bring to a boil.
If pressure cooking, lock on the lid and bring to high pressure. Cook at high pressure for 9 minutes. Remove from heat and allow pressure to come down naturally.
If cooking in a regular pot, simmer until beans are very tender, 1-2 hours depending on your beans. If beans seem too dry, add additional water.
Once beans are tender, puree using a hand blender or in batches in a regular blender. Return to pot and add remaining ingredients, except orange juice, and add salt and chili powder to taste. Simmer until carrots and collards are tender. Add orange juice just before serving. Serve garnished with orange slices on top or on the side.