This recipe for a simple and delicious bean soup is typical of the caldo sold by beach vendors throughout Brazil. They carry the hot soup in thermos jars as they walk along the miles of sand looking for hungry customers. This soup can be made with almost any type of dried bean, and in Brazil, regional differences will dictate which bean is most commonly used. In Rio de Janeiro and neighboring states, the black bean is most common. In Brazil's northeast they use pinto beans or kidney beans. Any will make a delicious soup - great to serve on a tropical beach, but equally satisfying when the temperature is below zero and the snow is blowing.
Bean Soup (Caldinho de Feijão)
2 cups dried beans (see above about types of beans)
8 cups water
2 bay leaves
1 thick slice bacon
1 6-8" linguiça or kielbasa sausage (optional)
1 med. onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
3 Tbsp. olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
chopped cilantro and green onion to garnish
Either soak beans overnight in cold water, or use quick-boil method* to soften. Put beans in heavy, medium-sized saucepan with water, bay leaves, bacon and optional sausage. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until beans are very tender, 40 minutes to one hour. Let mixture cool in saucepan.
If using sausage, remove from bean mixture, slice thinly, and reserve. Remove bacon from bean mixture, chop into small pieces and reserve.
Heat olive oil in heavy frying pan, add bacon and fry over medium heat until bacon renders most of its fat. Add onion and garlic and saute until softened. Add all to the bean mixture in saucepan. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Return saucepan to heat, bring to boil, reduce heat, and simmer for ten minutes. Remove from heat. Let cool for 15 minutes, then carefully blend mixture in blender or food processor until smooth. Return to heat to bring to serving temperature.
If using sausage, place a few slices in the bottom of a cup, then pour bean soup over. Otherwise, serve the soup in cups, garnished with the chopped green onions and/or cilantro. You may also add additional garnishes such as chopped hard-boiled egg or Mexican style pico de gallo.
*Place beans in heavy, medium-sized saucepan, and add cold water to cover by one inch. Over medium-high heat, bring beans to a brisk boil, let boil for one minute, then remove from heat. Cover the pan and let beans soften for one hour. Drain prior to beginning recipe.