Black Bean and Chipotle Soup

(4 to 6 servings)

We all desire something healthful and flavorful and quick to prepare for dinner. But as we have come to realize, most recipes are lacking in at least one of these categories. To speed preparation, it's helpful to read a recipe thoroughly first and manage your time accordingly. For example, as the authors of the "Moosewood Restaurant Daily Special" (Clarkson Potter, $35) point out, the most time-consuming aspect of this dish is the prep work. So chop the onions first; while they are cooking, finish the rest of the dicing.

1/4 cup olive oil

2 cups chopped onions

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 cups (1 pound) peeled and diced carrots

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 cup (3 stalks) chopped celery

1 cup (about 1 1/2) chopped green bell peppers

3 cups cooked black beans (may substitute two 15-ounce cans, undrained)

1/2 dried chipotle chili pepper or 1 canned chipotle in adobo sauce*

14-ounce can tomatoes, undrained, or 2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes

1/2 cup orange juice

1/2 cup water

Salt and pepper to taste

Sour cream and chopped cilantro (for optional garnish)

In a nonreactive soup pot over medium heat, heat the oil. Add the onions and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the carrots and cumin, reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, for 3 minutes. Add the celery and bell peppers, reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for 10 minutes. Add the beans, chipotle chili pepper, tomatoes, orange juice and water and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. (If you are not using canned beans, add 1/2 cup water or bean-cooking liquid; if you are using fresh tomatoes, simmer for an additional 5 minutes.)

Ladle the soup into individual soup bowls and, if desired, garnish each serving with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of cilantro.

* Note: Canned chipotle chilies in adobo sauce can be found in Latin American markets and most supermarkets.

Per serving (based on 6, using canned beans and tomatoes): 270 calories, 10 gm protein, 37 gm carbohydrates, 9 gm fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 1 gm saturated fat, 708 mg sodium, 10 gm dietary fiber


Stylish seconds: In a well-run restaurant kitchen, nothing is wasted: Leftover vegetables are tossed into the stockpot and yesterday's baguettes find themselves in today's bread pudding. At Marcel's (2401 Pennsylvania Ave. NW; 202-296-1166), that sense of frugality spills into the bar, whose massive granite counter is graced with handsome, triangular place mats designed by general manager Youssef Eagle Essakl-- from material left over from the restaurant's elegant new banquettes. "Hold that fabric!" he remembers telling workmen en route to the trash heap shortly before Robert Wiedmaier's French-Belgian restaurant opened last spring. What was destined for oblivion got stretched into 50 tapestry-like place mats, the undersides of which are softened with yet another leftover, spare table padding. "I don't waste anything," the resourceful host says.

Fusion cooking: It's a veritable United Nations behind the scenes of the month-old Caribbean Dream (1836 18th St. NW; 202-797-4930) in Adams-Morgan, where chef-owner Brian Danclair heads a cast of cooks and helpers from Mongolia, El Salvador, Togo and Jamaica--only one of whom speaks English. Danclair, 30, a native of Trinidad and former executive sous chef at The Jefferson Hotel, offers the cooking of the islands with a twist. Thus his codfish fritters ($3.75) are accompanied by a dip of mayonnaise, lime, fresh ginger and Scotch bonnet peppers; his jerk chicken ($8.25) gets a sweet-sour coat of tamarind barbecue sauce. Vibrant yellow walls, whimsical folk art and lilting calypso and reggae music help fuel the fun.

--Tom Sietsema

Old-timers will recognize this gadget from the days when soda pop was bottled in real glass and this wall-mounted bottle opener, right, was always at the ready. Once you've secured it to a door jamb, you'll never rummage through the junk drawer again in a panicked caffeine- or beer-deprived state. Perfect for those 50-second, sudden-death overtimes when every nanosecond away from the TV counts. Available for $3.95 at Restoration Hardware stores.

Call it the little kid in us, but we are inexorably drawn to the half-opened kernels of popcorn at the bottom of the bowl commonly called "Old Maids." So imagine our delight when we discovered Popnots, packages of barely opened popcorn kernels in four flavors: Original Salted, Spicy Cheese, White Cheddar and Butter.

Seven-ounce canisters are available locally at 7-Eleven stores for $2.29. Canisters (and, coming soon, single-serving pouches) are available by mail from Foreman Foods Inc.; call 281-955-2806 or www.popnots.com.

To Do

SATURDAY: Pretty Winter Days Wine Tasting--daily wine tasting begins at Berrywine Plantations. Free admission. Weekdays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Saturdays, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sundays, noon-6 p.m. 13601 Glissan's Mill Rd., Mount Airy, Md. Call 301-831-5889

MONDAY: Smorgasbord: Writing About Food--first in a literary series hosted by local chefs. Sponsored by the Arlington Cultural Affairs Division. Free. 8 p.m. NRECA Conference Ctr., 4301 Wilson Blvd. Call 703-228-7710.


WEDNESDAY: Beers of the World: Belgium--class and tasting at Fresh Fields Arlington. Benefits Healthy Families. $15. 7-9 p.m. 2700 Wilson Blvd. Call 703-527-6596.

WEDNESDAY: Wine Basics 101-- lecture and tasting sponsored by the Tasting Society International. $39. 7-9 p.m. Radisson Barcelo Hotel, 2121 P St. NW. Call 202-333-5588 or www.tastedc.com.


Weary of being bombarded by yet another news snippet on the joy of soy? We certainly hope not. But if you are leery of the many health claims you hear or read, or are hesitant to buy a chunk of tofu for "when the mood strikes," glance at this offering from the U.S. Soyfoods Directory. The well-organized site offers definitions and descriptions of soy in its various forms as well as the latest scientific research. The creators also have waded through a plethora of soybean-related information and culled lists of recommended organizations to contact, other Web sites and books, including cookbooks.