Black Bean Soup

4 cups dried black beans picked, rinsed and soaked overnight
8 bacon slices or ham hock, chopped (2 cups)
2 small onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch dice
5 carrots cut small
3 celery stalks sliced thin
4 cloves chopped garlic
1 teaspoon finely chopped seeded fresh jalapeno chili
3 teaspoons dried oregano, crumbled
3 California bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled
1 large can tomatoes (organic fire roasted)
6 quarts reduced-sodium chicken broth (96 fl oz) or vegetable
3/4 teaspoon white pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Soak beans overnight if using dried beans and cook in water for 2 ½ hours.

Cook bacon in a 5 to 6-quart heavy pot over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally about 5 minutes. Transfer bacon with a slotted spoon to a small bowl and keep the fat. Reserve 2 tablespoons chopped bacon for topping. In reserved fat, add onions, bell pepper, garlic, chile, oregano, bay leaf, and thyme and sauté, stirring frequently, until onion is softened, about 5 minutes.

Add beans, chicken broth and tomatoes. Simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes. Discard bay leaf and stir in cilantro.

Serve soup topped with sour cream, chopped cilantro, and reserved bacon.



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