So.many.cookies. So.much.chocolate. December.is.a.huge.sugar.coma. Which is why I was so excited to try Panera's black bean soup last week. It's healthy, warm, filling, and has a good complexity of flavors. Which, in these sweet-filled times, is a breath of fresh air. I got the "You-Pick-Two" combo and paired it up with a classic grilled cheese sandwich, which was so tragically dry and bland (think: one slice of american cheese, two pieces of white bread, and a panini press) that I was glad I had the delicious soup to dip it in. I've heard that the "grown up" grilled cheese is much better, so I'll spring for the upgrade next time! The other perk of the meal: the chocolate chip cookies. They are the key to keeping Lily from eating random food scraps off the floor. No, that's not a hypothetical situation.
So, with the soup being the star of the meal, when I got home from lunch I immediately fired up Google and started looking up recipes to replicate it. This one is really delicious and is done in under half an hour. The lemon adds a flavor that I never would have thought to include but it brings such a brightness that you really shouldn't leave it out. Trust me, you need to make this soup as soon as possible!
Panera Copy-Cat Black Bean Soup
1 onion, finely chopped 2 garlic cloves, minced 2 celery ribs, finely chopped 1/4 large red bell pepper, finely chopped 1 1/2 cupe vegetable stock 2 (15 ounce) cans black beans, undrained 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon cumin juice of 1 lemon 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
In a pot, combine the first six ingredients and bring to a simmer for 10 minutes. Add half a can of beans, salt and cumin and cook for 5 more minutes. Puree the soup (if you have an immersion blender then use it because it is much easier than transferring to a blender). Back in the pot, add the rest of the beans to the soup. Mix the cornstarch with 1 1/2 tablespoons of water until it is dissolved. Add the lemon and the cornstarch mixture to the soup and cook until thickened.
Source: Adapted from Food.com
Note: Panera invited me over to eat and paid for my meal, but my opinions are my own (of course!).