Aztec Black Bean & Squash Soup

When we think of a sophisticated ethnic cuisine, most of us think French, Italian or even Japanese. Mexican cuisine is derived from the Aztecs and influenced by the European colonizers. It, too, is a complex and a mature style of cooking. The flavors honed and fine-tuned for centuries from indigenous American ingredients didn’t only please palates, they also provided a healthy diet.

 

This recipe is not authentically Aztec, but the ingredients primarily stay true to what was available to the Aztecs prior to the arrival of the Europeans. The focus is on the mashed beans and squash using salt, chiles and epazote to flavor. Sunflower oil, included here, was also used by this indigenous culture.

 

This dish is topped with crema (a variation of sour cream) and cheese, ingredients and production methods introduced by the Europeans. Oaxaca cheese has a string or mozzarella-like texture, a cheese making method introduced to the people of the Oaxaca region (southern Mexico) by Spanish Catholic monks.

 

The black beans suggested here, Cherokee Trail of Tears, are heirloom beans carried across the Smoky Mountains by the Cherokee people as they were driven from their land. All black beans originate from the Americas, and the commercially produced Black Turtle Bean, generally labeled black beans in the grocery store, can be substituted.

 

Although we may not have access to Aztec varieties of squash, we know that their culture’s main staples were similar to those of their North American indigenous counterparts (The Three Sisters: corn, beans and squash). I recommend using delicata squash, an heirloom variety that’s easy to come by in this region. It has a high sugar content and typically weighs between one and a half and three pounds, which is ideal for this recipe. Chile powder may be substituted for anchos, but understand that some chili powders are the Tex-Mex spice mix that includes cumin, garlic and oregano.

By / Photography By Jason Toczydlowski | November 17, 2017

Ingredients

  • 2 cups Cherokee Trail of Tears Black Beans, dried (or 4 cups canned)
  • 2 pounds delicata squash, peeled, seeded and diced (substitute any winter squash)
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped (Culantro can be used, for a stronger more New World flavor)
  • 1 cup crema (substitute sour cream)
  • 1 cup Oaxaca cheese, cut into small cubes
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seed oil (I recommend Stony Brook Whole Hearted Foods oil, made in NY)
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • 6 dried ancho chiles (4,000–9,000 SHU)
  • 6 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper (fresh coarse ground)
  • 1 teaspoon epazote, dried

Preparation

1. Rinse beans. When using dried beans, soak them overnight in water or bring the beans and water to a boil and let sit for an hour prior to step 2.

2. Bring beans with at least 8 cups of water to a boil in a large pot. Add dried peppers and simmer covered for an hour or until somewhat soft, yet still with a tooth/firm skin.

3. In a separate saute pan or pot, bring sunflower seed oil to high heat. Add squash and onions, cook at high heat for two minutes, reduce heat and cook until soft.

4. Add squash, onions, epazote, salt, pepper and garlic into beans and water. Bring to a boil.

5. Remove chiles from the mix. Take off the stems, remove seeds, dice and add them back to the soup.

6. Remove three cups of the soup. Puree in a food processor or blender and return it to the larger pot.

7. Heat to serve. Add a pinch of cheese to each bowl and garnish with a dollop of crema or sour cream, cilantro, flaky salt, ground black pepper and freshly squeezed lime juice.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups Cherokee Trail of Tears Black Beans, dried (or 4 cups canned)
  • 2 pounds delicata squash, peeled, seeded and diced (substitute any winter squash)
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped (Culantro can be used, for a stronger more New World flavor)
  • 1 cup crema (substitute sour cream)
  • 1 cup Oaxaca cheese, cut into small cubes
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seed oil (I recommend Stony Brook Whole Hearted Foods oil, made in NY)
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • 6 dried ancho chiles (4,000–9,000 SHU)
  • 6 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper (fresh coarse ground)
  • 1 teaspoon epazote, dried
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