10 servings



          Black bean soup is a hearty meal in itself as well as a great dish around which to plan a Southwestern brunch or informal supper. I garnish the soup with the cilantro-poblano cream, a ribbon of yellow bell pepper sauce and a finely diced red bell pepper. To minimize the preparation time, I make the vegetable broth while the beans are soaking.



          1 pound black beans, rinsed

          3 pieces bacon, chopped



          3 medium yellow onions, peeled and


          3 cloves garlic, chopped

          4 carrots, cut in 1-inch pieces

          4 celery stalks, including leaves, cut in

          1-inch pieces

          1 green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded

          and coarsely chopped

          3 fresh Anaheim chilies, roasted and

          peeled, or 1 can (4 ounces) diced green chilies

          1 pound ham hocks or 1 ham bone

          3 cups beef stock, preferably homemade

          1/2 cup sherry

          1/4 cup coarsely chopped cilantro leaves


          Coarsely ground black pepper



          1 poblano chili, roasted and peeled, or 1 canned mild green chili, drained


           For the cilantro-poblano cream, put the chilies in a blender or food processor fitted with the metal blade. Add the sour cream, cream and cilantro and blend smooth. Add salt to taste and let stand about 20 minutes before using. Swirl several spoonfuls on top of each serving.


          Combine 7 cups of water, beans, and bacon in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil for 2 minutes, remove from heat and cover. Let the beans stand undisturbed while you prepare the broth.

          Place the onion, garlic, carrots, celery, bell pepper, chilies and ham hocks with the beef broth and 3 cups of water in a large stockpot or Dutch oven, Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 1 1/2 hours. Strain the broth through a coarse strainer. Save the broth and the ham but discard the vegetables. Remove the ham from the bone and chop coarsely. Set aside.


          Drain the beans and place them with the ham bones and broth in a large pot and heat to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, until the beans are tender, about 1 1/2 hours.


Put some of the beans, including the liquid, in a blender or food processor fitted with metal blade. Process to puree, then pour into a bowl. Repeat until all are done. Put the soup back in the stockpot. Stir in the sherry and cilantro.


          Heat the soup to a simmer over medium heat. Cook 15 to 20 minutes to combine all the flavors. Season to taste with salt and pepper. If the soup is too thick, thin it with beef stock or water.