Recently the weather decide that it could dip below 80 degrees and I was so excited that every trip outside would no longer require me to bring a handkerchief to mop away the sweat that I celebrated with a soup. One of my favorite soups is black bean soup. I especially love cooking it from dried beans and added a smoky flavor while cooking the beans (Hello bacon!). This meal is sooo cheap and makes enough for leftovers even when we have guests over. It is perfect paired with homemade soft pretzels and a cool autumn day. I would try to convince you further to make this soup, but the truth is it’s cooler outside then it’s been for months and I’m out to take a walk and breath in the first of my Florida fall.

Black Bean Soup
Makes 8 cups

Ingredients:
1 pound dried black beans (about 2 cups), rinsed, soaked in 4 quarts of water overnight or 6 hours, drained
1 lb smoked ham hock or bacon
2 bay leaves
5 cups water
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 Tbsp olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped fine
1 medium sweet potato, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
1 carrot, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1 teaspoon chile powder
2 cups chicken stock
1 Tbsp molasses
3 Tbsp lime juice
Salt
Chopped fresh cilantro
Sour cream
Avocado, peeled and chopped

Directions:
Place beans and ham hock in a 4-quart, thick-bottomed pot. Add 5 cups water, bay leaves, salt and baking soda. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a low simmer. Cover and let cook 1 hour 15 minutes to 1 hour 30 minutes, until beans are tender. Remove bay leaves. Remove ham hock from the pot. Cut ham meat away from the bone and cut into small, bite-sized pieces, set aside.
Heat olive oil in a large skillet on medium high until the oil is hot, but not smoking. Add the onions, sweet potato, carrots and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned and softened, about 10-15 minutes. Reduce heat to medium, add the cumin, chili powder, and garlic, cook for an additional 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
Add the sweet potato mixture to the pot of black beans and their cooking liquid. Then add chicken stock and molasses. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 to 30 minutes.
Remove 4 cups of the soup (about half of it) to a blender. Purée until smooth and return to the pot of soup. (You may need to purée the soup in smaller portions, depending on the size of your blender. Don’t fill the blender more than half way at a time and hold the lid while blending.) Add back the ham pieces to the soup. Add 3 Tbsp of lime juice. Adjust seasonings. If on the sweet side, add a bit more lime juice. Salt to taste.

Note that the soup may continue to thicken. If you would like it thinner, just add some water to desired consistency.

Source: Adapted from simply recipes

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