Recipe time: Interpretation of a kinda chunky Tomato/Red Bell Pepper/Black Bean Soup

This is more a set of guidelines for arriving at a soup than it is a hard and fast recipe. Adjust anything to suit your taste buds. Heck, you could probably leave out the tomatoes, although you’d have to change the name. (I’ve never done that so I won’t vouch for the results.)
Made with simple tools: knife, can opener, blender, cooking pot.

Chop a large onion and start it sauteing in a dab of olive oil.
After a few minutes when the onion is starting to soften and turn golden, mince or crush 4-5 garlic cloves and add them. Turn the stove down a bit—overcooked garlic gets bitter fast.
Add 1-2 t. basil, 1 t. dill, ½ t. crushed red bell pepper flakes, ½ t. black pepper. (I’ve also tried using a Cajun spice blend in place of this, and it was great. You could turn this a little more Italian with some thyme and rosemary, too. Follow your heart on this one.)
While this continues to cook, filling the house with a wonderful aroma that brings hungry family members in, sniffing eagerly, put your blender to work. Puree in batches and add to the pot:
3-4 cans diced tomatoes with juice, or the equivalent in real tomatoes from the garden if you’re lucky enough to have those
1 large can roasted red bell peppers
1 can black (or kidney) beans (you'll have little flecks of bean skin)
1 can evaporated milk (I use fat-free), or go for half-and-half or cream
Approx. ½ c. sun-dried tomatoes if you have them
I’ve been known to puree leftover cooked carrots or squash and throw that in, too, or I may grate some carrots, microwave them until soft, and puree them. Not an essential element.
Add 1 t. salt and 1 T. balsamic vinegar if you have it, or red wine vinegar. If you’re big on garlic, add another 1-2 cloves crushed garlic at this point. If you want it creamier and a little lighter in flavor, add another can of evaporated milk.
You can let this simmer as-is. I usually take ladles of soup out and re-puree them to get the onions smooshed up a bit more. I don’t do this scientifically—I just ladle some out, puree it, return it, and try to get my next few scoops from a different spot in the pot.
This seems to work just fine, but if you’re really conscientious about smooth, creamy soup, then you’ll have to empty the whole pot and puree every bit. Good luck with that. Either way you’ll still have bits of black bean skin floating around. This is a soup with character.
Allow to simmer 20-30 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings. I typically add a little more pepper at this point, maybe another garlic clove or two, maybe some salt. You can stir in a tablespoon or two of pesto, or swirl that into individual soup bowls if you like some presentation style.
Killer good with parmesan garlic toast, grilled cheese sandwiches, or crunchy croutons. Those are not included in the nutritional analysis below for one-cup servings, created at

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