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Black Bean Soup
From The Silver Palate Cookbook, by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins

Ingredients:

1 cup olive oil
3 cups diced yellow onions
8 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2 pounds black turtle beans, soaked in water overnight
1 meaty ham bone or smoked ham hock
6 quarts water
2 tablespoons plus
1 teaspoon ground cuminseed
1 tablespoon dried oregano
3 bay leaves
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
pinch of cayenne pepper
6 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 medium-size sweet red pepper, diced
1/4 cup dry sherry wine
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 to 2 cups crème fraîche or dairy sour cream

Instructions:

1. Heat the oil in a soup pot. Add the onions and garlic and cook over low heat until vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.

2. Drain the beans and add them, the ham bone or ham hock, and the 6 quarts water to the pot. Stir in 2 tablespoons of the cuminseed, the oregano, bay leaves, salt, pepper, cayenne and 2 tablespoons of the parsley. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook, uncovered, until beans are very tender and liquid is reduced by about three quarters. This will take 1-1/2 to 2 hours.

3. Transfer ham bone or hock to a plate and cool slightly. Pull off any remaining meat with your fingers and shred finely. Return meat to the pot.

4. Stir in remaining parsley, sweet red pepper, remaining cuminseed, sherry, brown sugar and lemon juice. Simmer for another 30 minutes, stirring frequently. Taste, correct seasoning and serve very hot, garnished with a dollop of crème fraîche.

Yield: 10 to 12 small portions

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