Cuban Black Bean Soup
I had a little time two Saturdays ago and decided to make a big pot of soup so I could have lunches and dinners for the week as I needed them. I’m a big fan of canned beans for convenience, and rarely use dried beans, except for certain soups when I have the time. Black bean soup is one of those recipes because cooking the dried beans yields a really rich broth. I found this particular recipe from one of my favorite new cookbooks, The Splendid Table. The original recipe calls for canned beans, and I’ll tell you how to make it using those, but making it from dried beans is worth it if you have the time. Yields 6-8 servings.
1 16 oz bag dried black beans, picked over for stones and misshapen beans and rinsed*
1-2 T olive oil
1 large or 2 medium yellow onions, chopped into 1/2″ dice
1 green bell pepper, chopped into 1/2″ dice
1 red bell pepper, chopped into 1/2″ dice
2 meaty smoked ham hocks, meat removed and diced, and bones reserved
3 whole cloves (I used 3 shakes of ground cloves instead)
6 cloves garlic, chopped
2 t ground cumin
1 1/2 t dried oregano
3 bay leaves, broken
1 t salt
1 t black pepper
1 lime, juiced
1 bunch fresh cilantro, leaves removed
Steamed rice, for serving
Cover black beans by 2 inches of cold water and either soak for 8 hours or overnight, or bring black beans and water to a boil, then turn off heat and let stand, covered, for 1 hour.
In a large soup pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. When hot, add cloves, onions and peppers and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender and there is a light brown glaze on the bottom of the pan. Add ham hock meat and reserved bones, garlic, cumin, oregano, bay leaves, salt and pepper and saute for 1 minute. Add 1 cup of the soaking liquid from the beans to deglaze the pan, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the remaining liquid and beans and bring to a boil. Lower heat to low and simmer, covered, for 1 1/2 – 2 hours, until beans are tender. Add more water if beans become too dry. When beans are tender, remove from heat and taste to adjust for salt. Add lime juice and stir to combine. Ladle into bowls, top with a scoop of rice, and sprinkle with chopped cilantro.
* To make this with canned beans, substitute 3-14 oz cans of black beans, drained and rinsed, for the dried beans. Eliminate the soaking step. Saute vegetables and spices according to directions. Instead of adding bean water, add 2-14 oz cans vegetable broth to deglaze the pan, then add the rinsed black beans. Simmer for 20 minutes, then add lime juice and serve.