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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Waste Not Challenge: Red Mole Black Bean Soup

This month there’s a contest at the Fine Cooking site that’s perfect for the likes of us: Ellie Krieger’s Waste Not Challenge to create a dish from refrigerator leftovers.
The contest only runs through April 30, and we only got around to reading the rules on Saturday, but as it happened, we had a few items that really, really needed to be used up.

These included an aging batch of vegetable stock, an ancient but apparently immortal jar of Trader Joe’s red mole paste, part of a can of tomatoes, a rapidly ripening avocado, and some black beans, cilantro, and queso fresco left over from a recent Friday night dinner.
With a few contributions from the spice and onion drawers, these ingredients all came together in a dish that falls somewhere between soup and chili.
Will we use this recipe again? Definitely. But what we enjoyed most was the challenge to make do with what we had—to add this, tweak that and in the process come up with something entirely new and, for all practical purposes, free.
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T. olive oil
7 cups vegetable stock
2 cups cooked black beans
1 ½ cups diced canned tomatoes, with juice
2 T. red mole paste
1 t. ground cumin
1 t. dried oregano
1 T. mild chili powder
1 T. Bragg’s Liquid Aminos* (optional)
salt and fresh-ground pepper to taste
four small corn tortillas, shredded
diced avocado
chopped cilantro
crumbled queso fresco**
1. Saute garlic and onion in oil until soft.
2. Add stock, beans, and tomatoes. Bring to boil, then reduce to simmer.
3. Add mole paste; stir until paste dissolves.
3. Add cumin, oregano, chili powder, Bragg’s, salt, and pepper. Simmer for 15 minutes.

4. Add shredded tortillas; simmer until they fall apart, about 20 minutes.
5. Serve with garnishes.
* If you ever find yourself with a flat-tasting vegetarian dish, this product adds depth of flavor without adding a lot of salt. It’s available in many supermarkets (near the vinegar), or in any health food store.
** Although you can substitute feta cheese for queso fresco, the Mexican cheese adds a nice meaty texture to the soup. Available at Costco as well as Hispanic markets.


  1. I don't think I have ever seen a jar of Mole before. What is this mysterious food?

  2. I actually had to look "mole" up, and it turned out my assumption was wrong. I'd assumed it was a sauce with chocolate in it, but Mark Bittman says moles are "a group of classic slow-booked Mexican sauces that get their rich, deep flavor from a long list of ingredients." The red mole is similar to the red sauce you'd get on enchiladas, but a trip to shows that you can get moles in a lot of different colors and strengths.

    Alas, it appears that Trader Joe's no longer carries the paste (our bottle is REALLY old), but, just to give you an idea, it contains pasilla and ancho peppers, raisins, peanuts, cinnamon and chocolate. In contrast to dark moles, though, the chocolate taste is very subtle.

    If anybody else has good leads on getting moles of any color, please post a comment. Thanks!

  3. That looks delicious -- and how great that it's actually a soup that can be recreated, so many of the "use up leftovers" recipes are one-in-a-time!

  4. Braggs works well on popcorn too. Skip the butter, use olive oil and Braggs next movie night.

  5. Thanks for clarifying. Mole sounds good. Anything Mark Bittman talks about sounds good, really, but Mole sounds complex and yummy.

  6. Queso fresco... so THAT'S what it is. I've had it and loved it. I knew it wasn't feta but I hadn't heard of it before.