Chunky black bean soup with sherry

Makes 5 cups -- 4 servings

The bold flavors of this chunky soup become even more appealing with the addition of sherry. Add more red pepper flakes if you like it even zestier. For a satisfying meal, serve with a sweet, fruity white wine, such as Gewürztraminer, or a jammy red, such as Shiraz or Red Zinfandel.

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup finely chopped onion

2 carrots, finely chopped

1 rib celery, finely chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

½ teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon ground coriander

3 cups vegetable stock (prepare using stock concentrate, cubes, or powder)

½ cup dry sherry

One 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed

¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper, or to taste

1/8 teaspoon red-pepper flakes, or to taste

¼ teaspoon salt, or to taste

Sour cream and finely chopped red bell pepper for garnish

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, and celery; cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are crisp-tender, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic, cumin, and coriander; stir constantly for about 30 seconds.

Stir in the remaining soup ingredients, except the salt and garnish. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat; cover and simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat; let the soup cool for a few minutes.

Transfer 1 cup of the soup and beans to a blender and purée until smooth. Stir the puréed mixture into the soup and add the salt. Warm, stirring constantly, over medium heat. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Garnish the servings with a dollop of sour cream topped with red bell pepper.