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(Sopa de Frijol)

1 cup dry black beans
2 quarts cold water
4 tablespoons lard or oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 teaspoon chile pequín, crumbled
1 tomato, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1/4 teaspoon oregano
Freshly ground pepper
1/3 cup dry sherry

Wash the beans but do not soak them. Place in a large saucepan with the water; cover and cook gently until almost tender. Heat the oil or lard in a skillet; add the onion, garlic, and chile. When the onion is tender but not browned, stir in the tomato. Combine this mixture with the beans, oregano, and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer, covered, until the beans are very tender. Push the beans through a sieve or puree them in an electric blender. Return to the saucepan; simmer a few minutes longer; stir in the sherry and serve.

Soup may be accompanied by tortillas cut into fourths and fried crisp, crumbled fresh cheese, or a slice of lime. Serves 6.

My favourite Mexican restaurant used to serve a soup like this. Unfortunately it wasn't popular enough and it's disappeared off the menu. I found out how to make it myself though: I adapted a recipe from a Mexican cookbook and present the results to you here.

This soup is very easy to make although you need some time. Together with a salad and some bread (or tortilla chips!) it makes a meal by itself. This recipe makes for about 1.5l of soup, which should feed at least four people, or just you on four occasions. You will need:

Wash and sort the beans. Do not soak them! Put them into a large pan with the water and bring to a boil. Let simmer. Go do something else, this will take a while (two hours at the least, maybe three).

When the beans are almost soft, get out a frying pan, put it on the fire and pour in a bit of olive oil (the original recipe calls for lard, but olive oil is easier to obtain, better for your health, and suitable for vegetarians). Fry the cumin seeds until they start to smell and pop, then add chili pepper, onion and garlic and fry until they are soft. Finally add the tomato and oregano and let simmer for a few minutes. Add the mixture to the beans and cook until the beans are completely soft. Then puree the soup. Add the chopped cilantro and salt to taste.

When serving, add a dollop of sour cream to each bowl of soup.

three-day cuban black bean soup:

(not a vegetarian version)

you will need:

Sort the beans out, looking for ones that are discolored. Get rid of these. Now rinse and soak those little guys for at least 12 hours, preferably for more like 24. Time it so you can start cooking the beans in mid-morning on day two. As they soak, some beans which aren't good that you missed while sorting my float to the top of the water. Pull them out and toss 'em.

When the beans are done soaking, the water will be black and opaque. Drain it. Rinse the beans again, then put them in a large stew pot. Put enough water in it to cover the beans by about an inch. Now boil the beans, but not at a huge boil. They're going to have to cook for hours and hours, and you don't want to have to hover over them the whole time, although you should give them a good stir every ten or fifteen minutes if you can. Make sure you add water when you need to (and you'll need to several times before the beans are done). If the soup develops a skin, add some water and stir it up. Also, add some salt to the beans at this time, but not too much, because you'll be adding boullion. When the beans have cooked for around three or four hours, chop the onion up and toss it in. Also add the garlic (finely chopped or pressed), tomato paste and boullion at this time. Bring to a simmer- keep it bubbling, but just barely. Give it a good stir to mix the tomato paste in with the rest of the soup.

Preheat the over to 250 degrees F. Rub the pork shoulder vigorously with a mixture of barbeque sauce and either honey or maple syrup (about 4:1 ratio). Stick the pork in the oven and let it slow-cook. This may take upwards of three hours, but don't rush it by turning the heat up. Let it take forever, you've got that long. When the pork begins to look really dry, brush a little more sauce mixture on it. When the pork is cooked to tenderness (I mean, it should prety much fall apart in your hands by the time it's done), let it cool and pull (shred) it (I use my hands, my wife uses two forks) into small pieces. Put these in a bowl with a little more sauce (the amount depends entirely on you, but I think I end up using a little less than a cup of total mix through the entire procedure, including basting), and give it a stir. Stick the pork bits in the fridge. You don't need them yet. Keep the beans cooking, and don't forget to stir them every once in a while. By now, the water in the beans should be opaque again. That's good. Don't drain them again. Today you should at least cook the soup until the onions virtually disappear. They will, if you let it cook long enough. At the end of the day, turn the stove off, let the pot cool, and stick it in the fridge. You're done for the day.

Get the beans simmering again. When they're bubbling cheerily, dump in the saucy pork bits and add red chile TO TASTE. I'm really not going to give you an amount for this, but add it slowly. Chile gets hotter as it boils, so add the chile only a little at a time and keep the soup at a low simmer. Today you can really begin tasting the soup and adding stuff as you please. I suggest a little more salt (I use Lawry's Seasoned Salt), freshly ground black pepper, paprika, fresh chopped cilantro, Kitchen Bouquet (this stuff is good for all kinds of soups and stews), and if you want, a little more B-B-Q. Then just sit back, let it cook. Keep an eye on it, and keep tasting it until you're satisfied. At dinnertime on day 3, the soup should be ready. Serve it up with soup crackers on the side, and shredded cheddar on top. ENJOY!

Note: this recipe comes from my close observations of Donna, an elderly cuban woman who somehow or another knows my mother-in-law. She actually cooks the beans in a huge crock pot for a week. I don't have that kind of patience, although my soup's not as good as hers, either. Hers ends up practically being black bean pudding, because the beans eventually fall apart, but damn it's good. Donna wouldn't give me the actual recipe, which as far as I know, has never been written down. I've done my best.

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