OK, so maybe not quite as easy as "open a few cans, dump their contents into a pot, stir." But still, pretty appallingly easy–and better-tasting (as well as healthier) than a lot of the black bean soups out there.
In what may possibly be an all-time first, Rhys had three bowls (Fisher did, too). I am so glad I didn't have to sleep in the same room with them after.
Canned black beans not only don't taste anywhere near as nice as home-cooked ones, but they're absolutely loaded with salt. It is seriously just about as easy to cook up a big batch of beans as it is to open the cans, deal with rinsing & draining the beans, rinse the cans, take them out to the recycling… you get the picture.
To get enough beans for this soup plus probably one more, just dump a whole bunch (a pound, plus maybe a tinch more?) of black beans into a colander. Rinse them–you probably don't need to freak out about it too much, most bulk beans these days are pretty clean–and pick out any obvious non-belonging-there things. I've yet to find any actual rocks or suchlike in WinCo's beans, but sometimes there are errant pintos in the black beans or vice versa.
If your family is particularly gassy, you can reduce some of the gas-causing sugars by doing a quick-soak beforehand. Just cover the beans with water, bring to a boil, turn off the heat and let them sit, covered, for an hour. Then rinse and drain the beans and proceed with cooking them.
Add water to cover by a couple of inches. (The rest-the-tip-of-your-finger-on-the-top-of-the-beans-and-add-water-to-the-second-knuckle trick works brilliantly here.) Set over high heat, covered, and bring just to a boil; then reduce the heat and simmer until the beans are tender. I honestly can't tell you how long this last part will take. Last night's beans needed maybe an hour or so–start tasting them after about 40 minutes and you should be safe. Salt them when they're barely tender; if you start out with salt, they will take forever to soften.
If you think you (or your family) don't like beans, and all you've ever really had is the canned version, you owe it to yourself to see what real, home-cooked, unprocessed beans taste like. In both flavor and texture, they're a whole different creature than those lame little tinned spitwads.
And as a bonus: after all that non-hard work of cooking beans, you get to make the World's Easiest Soup!
Excruciatingly Easy Black Bean Soup
Should probably serve eight, but only ended up serving four
About 4 cups cooked black beans, plus another cup, set aside
Roughly 3 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1-1/2 cups chunky salsa, more or less, your choice of heat level (Medium adds plenty of flavor without overwhelming any tender-tongued diners)
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
1/3 cup sherry (optional, but very tasty)
Shredded cheddar cheese
Sliced green onions
With an immersion or regular blender, puree the 4 cups beans with the 3 cups chicken broth until fairly smooth. Put mixture into a soup pot (the unwashed bean pot will do nicely).
Stir in unpureed beans, salsa, cumin, salt and sherry. Cover and set over low heat until heated through to a simmer. Taste and add more salt if needed. (You may have to salt a little more than you would imagine, since you're using home-cooked beans and not the sodium-laden canned variety.) Stir thoroughly.
Serve with cheese, sour cream and onions to delight the eye and tongue.
Image by Flickr user spackletoe. Used under a Creative Commons license.