It has been a beautiful fall season this year. Inspired by the golden canvas as I scoot down the river road. The cooler weather makes me think of soup, I found this bag of 12 bean variety of dried beans that blended with the color palette out my window. As usual I find a few recipes and improvise with what sounds tasty. I soaked the beans overnight and then cooked the beans for an hour with some water bay leaves and the bones from the ham-hock. There was not much water left in the pot when I was done cooking the beans. So I added a can of chicken stock. I then followed the Cuban black bean stew recipe in my new cookbook: The Splendid Table’s How to Eat Supper by Lynne Rossetto Kasper and Sally Swift.
- Trim the meat away from the ham-hock bone, cutting it into small pieces. Don’t be too fussy; leaving some on the bone is fine. Film the bottom of a 10-quart stockpot with olive oil and heat over medium-high heat. Stir in the meat, bone, cloves, onions, bell peppers, garlic, jalapeno and salt. Sauté for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the vegetables are sizzling and there’s a brown glaze on the bottom of the pan (the vegetables need not brown, and take care not to let that glaze blacken).
- Add a little of the broth along with the garlic, bay leaves, cumin, oregano, black pepper, and tomato paste. With a wooden spatula, scrape up the glaze as you simmer the mix on medium-high heat for 3 minutes. Then add the beans, carrots, celery,can of tomatoes, fresh herbs and the remaining broth. Adjust the heat so the soup bubbles gently. Cover the pot tightly, and cook for 20 minutes.
- Stir in the juice from 2½ limes or ⅓ cup of the vinegar. Taste the soup for seasoning. Adjust the salt, pepper, and lime juice or vinegar to taste.
- Ladle the soup into bowls, topping each serving with a heaping tablespoon of chopped onion and a little fresh cilantro. Have the hot sauce on the table.