Posted by: Catherine | October 1, 2009

Jeremiah Tower’s Black Bean Gazpacho (RR*)


(Reader Recipe)

Another guest post from Gail Monaghan:

I feel lucky to have Jeremiah Tower as my food guru and close friend. As you know he was co-owner and first chef of the nascent Chez Panisse in the 1970s; after that, he was chef-proprietor of San Francisco’s legendary Stars restaurant and recipient of the 1996 James Beard award for Outstanding Chef of the Year—it doesn’t get much better than that! We knew one another a long ago in Cambridge, when he was in architecture school at Harvard and I was busy “mastering the art of French cooking”  by systematically cooking and eating my way through every page of Julia Child.

However, we were really just acquaintances when, over two decades later when I was working at the publishing house, Harry N. Abrams, I acquired and edited his 2002 cookbook, Jeramiah Tower Cooks. That was when we developed a friendship that led to numerous trying-to-find-interesting-work adventures and misadventures—we went from Tangiers to New Brunswick, from New York City to Florence, and back again. Nothing panned out from our escapades but we had quite the good time in the process.  Jeremiah landed in Mexico where he’s resting, writing, and pursuing his passions for scuba diving and architecture (buying, renovating and selling beautiful old courtyard-style houses in Merida, the capital of the Yucatan).

His south-of-the-border residency paved the way for new adventures. On a recent trip, we traveled to Oaxaca, ate grasshoppers, refused to eat worms, traveled back to Merida, made a wonderful mole, devised a recipe for Chili Ice Cream with Hibiscus sauce, went scuba-diving in Cozumel, and maybe best of all, had a back-and-forth on Black Bean Gazpacho.

Traditional Black Bean Soup is good for you and wildly flavorful; I’ve always loved it.  However, a hot, heavy soup is not what you crave in the muggy Yucatan with daily highs hitting 106 and evening “lows” in the 90s. Jeremiah’s pantryful of black turtle beans provided a reason to make a substantial yet refreshing summer soup he hadn’t made since his days at Stars.  After a quick trip to the local mercato for veggies and a ham bone, he got to work. Once cooked and cooled to room temperature, the soup was thinned with a bit of broth and ladled into a wide white soup plate. A garnish of julienned red and yellow peppers, red onions, quartered cherry tomatoes, diced cucumber, minced cilantro, and some sour cream (could also use Greek yogurt) made the dish as gorgeous as it was delicious. It’s like a salad-soup.

The soup can be made several days in advance and refrigerated, or it can be frozen for much longer. And of course, it is delicious in the winter piping hot.

serves 6 to 8

2 cups black turtle beans, rinsed and soaked overnight in cool water

1 large onion, peeled and chopped

4 large carrots, peeled

4 stalks celery, peeled

6 cloves garlic, peeled

3 jalapenos, seeds and ribs removed

1 large meaty ham bone, or 2 hocks or 2 to 3 cups smoked chicken, duck or turkey, cut into pieces

1 bay leaf

1/2 bunch cilantro

A few sprigs of parsley

2 T dark molasses

1 T Dijon mustard

2 T orange juice concentrate

½ t. peppercorns

3 T ground cumin

2 T ancho chili powder (optional)

2 quarts chicken or vegetable stock (or more)

1 t. sea salt, or more to taste

Tabasco or other hot sauce, to taste

2 T lime juice, or to taste

3 T dry sherry

Salt and pepper, to taste

Chopped cilantro for garnish

Finely minced red onion for garnish

Finely minced red and yellow bell pepper for garnish

Finely minced cucumber for garnish

Finely sliced cherry or grape tomapes for garnish

Sour cream or greek yogurt for garnish, thinned to pourable with milk or cream

Rinse the beans and put them in a large stock pot with the rest of the ingredients up until but excluding the salt.

Bring to a boil, cover and reduce the heat to very low. Simmer for one hour. Add the salt and cook, partially covered until done. The beans should be very tender. This takes approximately one hour more but the timing can vary depending on the age of the beans and how long they were soaked. Add more stock or water if the liquid comes below the surface of the beans. And stir frequently to prevent sticking/burning.

When beans are done, puree with hand-held emulsifier or cool to lukewarm and then puree in batches in the blender. Stir in lime juice, sherry, salt, pepper, and Tabasco. Cool. Add water to thin to correct consistency. You may need to adjust the seasoning again at this point.

Serve tepid or at room temperature.  Very pretty in white soup bowls. Or even ¼ inch thick white plates with rims with sour cream drizzled over. Garnish before serving, or pass bowls of garnishes separately.



  1. I can’t wait to make this soup. I can tell from the ingredients that it is delicious. Right up my spice alley.

  2. That’s some serious yum!

  3. Oh this sounds absolutely marvelous! What a brilliant idea to incorporate orange juice concentrate. I’ve never thought to use that in soup and it makes so much sense. Thank you for sharing!

  4. I love these ingredients. I adore black bean soup is every guise, shape and form – this is fabulous.

  5. Would be perfect for the colder days that we are getting.

  6. That is quite the ingredient list. I love black beans, but I’ll have to wait til my husband leaves town to make it- he’s not a fan.

  7. I’m not really fond of black beans but i love the color of this dish..

  8. I just listened to a radio talk about cold soups…but they never mentioned this! I never knew you could have black bean soup cold as a gazpacho…very cool!

    I don’t think I would have eaten the grasshoppers, OR the worms…;-)

  9. Oh, this sounds so very good. I love this combination of flavours.

  10. What a fab & healthy soup thisd is!! It looks very tasty too!

    MMMMMMMMMMM,…I so love beans!!

  11. I haven’t encountered this kind of soup. But I guess it is a worth a try.

  12. This is a great recipe and I like the idea of a salad soup. I ate many salad soups in Poland- they simply pile the salad right over top of the soup. I don’t think it was meant to be a culinary masterpiece as these beans, I think it was to save dishes!

  13. Interesting with the addition of the orange juice…I imagine this is very refreshing!

  14. This sounds incredibly delicious!! I love black beans and it’s soup weather here!

  15. WOW! This is jam packed with such deicious flavors. Unique combinations. Sounds terrific!

  16. The soup sounds fantastic, thank you for sharing this recipe with us!

  17. Hello,

    The soup does look great. Gail……I am hoping you will pass my contact information along to Jeremiah Tower. I am President of the Tower Genealogical Society and would love to make contact with him if he’s interested.
    Patricia Brown
    Tower Genealogical Society

    Thank you for your assistance.

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