Black Bean Soup

Black bean soup is one of my favorite vegetarian soups, and this one is so rich and flavorful – it gets my highest marks! Serve it with white rice or cornbread – and a margarita or mojito is always nice too. You saute the veggies and spices, then add them to the beans when they’re done boiling. It dirties two pans – but it’s really quite easy.
Serves 8

1 lb dried black beans – rinsed, picked over and soaked overnight in cold water
1 large bay leaf
1 medium green pepper, seeded and chopped
1/2 c extra-virgin olive oil
4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 large green bell pepper, seeded and chopped (about 1 cup)
1 T ground cumin
2 T red wine vinegar
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped

For garnish: cilantro, shredded cheese, tortilla strips (optional)

Boil the beans for 2 hours with the bay leaf and the first chopped green pepper (start with enough water to cover the beans by 2 inches, adding more as necessary).

Saute the garlic, onion and second green pepper in the olive oil for 10 minutes over medium heat. Then add the cumin, vinegar and chopped jalapeno. Let this simmer for at least 30 minutes over low heat, then turn off the heat until the beans are done.

When the beans have cooked for 2 hours, stir in the veggies and cook for another 30 – 40 minutes, until the beans are almost disintegrating. If the water is getting low, turn the heat down – you don’t want to add more water at this point or your soup will be watery tasting.

Taste and correct with salt and pepper – probably at least a teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. Transfer soup to a blender, or use an immersion blender, to puree until very smooth.

This soup freezes amazingly well, but will need to be thinned when you reheat it, with water or chicken broth (if you’re not particular about it being vegetarian).

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