Black Bean Soup

1 cup olive oil
3 cups diced yellow onions
8 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
2 pounds black beans, soaked in water overnight
1  meaty ham bone or smoked ham hock
6  quarts water
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon {ground cumin}
1 tablespoon dried oregano
3  bay leaves
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground {black pepper}
Pinch of  cayenne pepper
6 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
1  medium-size red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and diced
1/4 cup dry sherry
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 to 2 cups sour cream or  sour cream
Heat the oil in a soup pot over medium-low heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook over low heat until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.

Drain the beans and add them, the ham bone or ham hock, and the 6 quarts of water to the pot. Stir in the 2 tablespoons of cumin, the oregano, bay leaves, salt, pepper, cayenne, and 2 tablespoons of the parsley. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and cook, uncovered, until the beans are very tender and the liquid is reduced by about three quarters. This will take 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Transfer the ham bone or hock to a plate and cool slightly. Pull off any remaining meat with your fingers and shred finely. Return the meat to the pot.

Stir in the remaining parsley, bell pepper, the remaining teaspoon cumin, the sherry, brown sugar, and lemon juice. Simmer for another 30 minutes, stirring frequently. Taste, correct the seasoning, and serve very hot, garnish with a dollop of sour cream.

Ease of Preparation: Moderate

Preparation Time: 15 min

Cook Time: 2 hr

Servings: 10 to 12 small portions

Recipe By: Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins

From:  Silver Palate Cookbook
Used with permission of Workman Publishing Company