Black Bean Soup

Based on The Silver Palate Cookbook recipe (with embellishments copied from The Winds Café), this hearty soup is delicious when prepared, but even better the next day.

1 lb black beans
1/2 cup Vera Jane's Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
3 medium onions, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 meaty Heavenly Ham® bone or Ham Hock
2.5 quarts water (10 cups)
1 1/2 Tbsp cumin
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 tsp salt
Freshly ground pepper
A pinch of cayenne pepper
3 Tbsp chopped parsley
1 small red bell pepper, diced
2 Tbsp dry Sherry
1 1/2 tsp brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp lemon juice
Grated cheddar cheese
Sour cream
Chopped onion (optional)
Chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

Wash and pick over beans. Soak overnight in water to cover. Heat oil in large pot. Add onions and garlic and cook over low heat until vegetables are soft and tender, about ten minutes.

Drain the beans and add them to the cooked onions. Add the ham bone, 2 1/2 quarts of water, 1 tablespoon of cumin, oregano, bay leaves, salt, pepper, cayenne, and 1 tablespoon of parsley. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and simmer uncovered 2 to 3 hours until beans are very tender and liquid is reduced by about 1/3. Remove 2 cups of beans and purée. (Be careful if beans are hot!) Return to pot and remove ham bone, pull off any meat and shred meat. Return meat to pot and stir in remaining parsley, red pepper, sherry, brown sugar, and lemon juice. Simmer an additional 30 minutes, stirring frequently. Taste and correct seasoning.

To serve: Spoon grated cheese into the bowl, top with hot soup, and a dollop of sour cream, and top with optional garnishes.

Makes 8 servings

Allergy Warning: Contains milk and wheat and soy