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Sabbath at the Spectrum Café: Black Bean Soup


In addition to memorable Sabbath meals, Sabbath at the Spectrum Café features fresh perspectives on food, community and unique stories surrounding vegetarian cuisine.

Just as God knew Jeremiah in the womb, so he knew me. He knew I was going to be a vegetarian before I saw the light of day. One problem—nothing is perfect in this world—I was born into a meat-eating, steak-and-potatoes family. As early as I can remember, meat disgusted me. I remember gagging at the fat on the side of my lamb chop, praying that God would make it disappear.

In the 1950s, Davy Crockett was made popular by Disney, and I became an aficionado. Mom bought me a coonskin hat with a raccoon tail (actually I think it was road kill with a raccoon tail, but I digress). This prop not only made me feel manly at age 5, but it also gave me cover when I had to suffer the prospect of eating chicken. My little brain quickly converted chicken into “buffalo meat,” and me into “Davy,” and presto! I was able to eat chicken; it was part of my script. Hamburgers were literally buried in ketchup, onions, pickles, cheese, lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise, mustard … you get the point.

The Lord had his hand in this process. Like hiding wee little Moses in the reeds, I learned to conceal salmon patties in my napkin, and with the stealth of Dick Tracy, I deposited the filthy sin (I speak in jest) in the trash. Mom never found out, but my cat was always snooping around the trashcan, so I would whisk it out to the garbage can in the yard. I was Mom’s “little helper.”

By the time I elected to attend Pacific Union College and learned that all the food there was vegetarian, I knew I had been translated. So this is what the Promised Land looks like, I thought; I was thrilled. Then on to seminary and out into the ministry I went. I landed in Tennessee and every one of my church members had a garden, and potlucks were the best. I would end sermon early just to get to the vegetarian grub, fresh from the garden to fellowship hall. As the pastor (some called me “Pester”), I was constantly being invited over to parishioners’ homes. There I would observe and listen until I learned how to cook fresh from the garden too. You know, FriChik, Nuteena, veggie dogs, stuff like that.

The years sped by and I found myself married to a full-blooded Italian, who by some slight-of-hand didn’t cook—God has a wicked sense of humor. So I learned to cook: Italian, Mexican, Italian and Mexican. My repertoire is limited, but it is killer. I make black bean soup, which is to die for, not from.

Greg Prout is a father of three, grandfather of two, and has been happily married for 30 years to Mary Ventresca. He served as a pastor for four years, a Bible teacher for eight and realtor for 32. Greg describes his spiritual experience: “I trail after God incessantly for He/She is the most wonderful, fascinating, mysterious Being who has never failed me, loves me well, has unlimited patience and understanding, offers abundant grace and loves the surprise.”

Black Bean Soup

This recipe for Black Bean Soup comes from Greg Prout. Easy to prepare, reliable and always welcome in newly chilly weather, this dish also invites variations. Craving more color in your bowl? Add a few handfuls of fresh or frozen corn, along with chopped tomatoes and perhaps shredded carrots. Sensing a pre-winter chill outside? Notch up the heat with more red pepper flakes. Looking for a different flavor profile? Try a different variety of salsa. And so on.

Serves: 8
Prep time: 45 min.


3 cans (15 oz. each) low-sodium black beans, liquid reserved
1½ cups low-sodium vegetable broth
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped, plus additional for optional garnish
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 jar (16 oz.) of your favorite salsa
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon ground cumin
½ – 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
½ cup plain low-fat yogurt (as garnish)
Garnish: chopped fresh cilantro (optional)


1. In a large blender, combine beans and their liquid with vegetable broth. Process until smooth.

2. In a large saucepan over medium heat, heat olive oil. Add onion and garlic. Cook and stir for one to two minutes.

3. Add bean mixture, salsa, lime juice, cumin and red pepper flakes to saucepan. Bring to a boil.

4. Reduce heat to low. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 25 to 30 minutes. Serve in bowls, and drizzle with yogurt. Garnish with onion and cilantro, if desired.

Delicious! Enjoy. 

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