Harvest Black Bean Soup

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The soup is good fresh from the pot, but even better for a day or 3 or 4 in the fridge. Refrigerates up to 6 days and freezes for 4 months.
 
A soup meant for using up those survivors of the vegetable bin turns them into prime assets when they're browned then cooked with black beans. Believe it or not, pumpkin pie spices are the making of this soup. Who knew dried beans practically light up when simmered with a generous helping of these fresh ground so-called "sweet" spices. Try it; you'll see. A ham hock doesn't hurt either.

Cook to Cook: With each reheat, make it new with flavorings like simmered red wine and orange peel going in one night, a topping of chopped apple and onion the next, and a puree of roasted peppers and dollops of yogurt on another.

Ingredients
  • 1 pound dry black beans
  • Good tasting extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large or 2 medium onions, cut into half-inch dice
  • 2 large carrots, cut into half;-inch thick rounds
  • 2 large stalks celery with leaves, cut in to half-inch thick pieces
  • 2 large parsnips, cut into half-inch thick slices
  • 1/4 large green or red cabbage, cut into half-inch pieces
  • Generous 1/2 teaspoon each whole allspice, whole coriander seed, cumin seed and black peppercorns
  • 8 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 generous tablespoon dry basil
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 2 to 3-inch cinnamon stick, broken
  • 1 smoked ham hock (2 to 3 pounds) trimmed of excess fat
  • 8 whole cloves
  • 14-ounce can whole tomatoes
  • 3 to 5 tablespoons cider vinegar
Instructions

1. Soak the beans overnight in the fridge with water to cover by about 2 inches. Or soak them just a couple of hours by covering them with boiling water and leaving the beans at room temperature.

2. Put the whole allspice, coriander seed, cumin and peppercorns in a coffee grinder or mortar pestle and grind to a fine powder.

3. When you're ready to start the soup, film the bottom of an 8 to 10-quart pot with olive oil. Heat over medium high and add the onion, carrot, celery, parsnip and cabbage. Saute until the vegetables begin to color. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper as they cook.

4. Add the drained beans, the ground spice mixture, minced garlic, basil, ginger, cinnamon, ham hock, and the whole cloves. Stir in enough water to cover everything by about an inch. Bring to a slow simmer, partially cover and simmer 45 minutes, or until the beans are tender. Add more water if needed to keep the solids covered.

5. Once the beans are tender, add the tomatoes and their liquid (crushing them as they go into the pot) with the vinegar. Taste for seasoning, adjust, and simmer another 30 minutes uncovered (this intensifies flavors).

6. With the ham hock still in the soup, use 2 forks to pull the meat from the bone. If serving right away, discard the bone.If storing for later, leave the bone in the soup. Serve the soup hot.

From The Splendid Table's How to Eat Supper by Lynne Rossetto Kasper and Sally Swift, Clarkson Potter, 2008.

Prep time: 
30 minutes
Cook time: 
1 hour mostly unattended stove time
Total time: 
1 1/2 hours
Yield: 
Serves 6 as a main dish, up to 12 as a first course

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