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Cuban Black Bean Soup

This is really yummy--not piquant, but full of flavors and textures with a lemony bite. It's pretty to look at too, especially in flat white soup plates, with the white of egg and yellow of lemon and yolk contrasting so beautifully with the dark beans. Serve hot to 6 as a meal with salad, Cuban bread, and dry or medium sherry.

Garnish: 6 slices of lemon and 2 hard boiled eggs, chopped

Soak beans overnight in lots of water. Discard water (to avoid flatulence), then bring 10 cups fresh water to a boil and pour in soaked beans and salt pork or ham. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, until nearly tender, about 1-2 hours.

Pound the garlic, cumin, oregano, and mustard together until well blended.

Heat the oil in a saucepan, then sauté the onion and green pepper, stirring, until wilted. Add the spice paste and stir for a minute. Pour in the lemon juice and 1/2 cup of the bean liquid. Cover and simmer 15 minutes. Stir into the beans and simmer for another hour, partially covered.

When ready to serve, pureé 2 cups of the beans, then stir back into the pot. Remove the salt pork (if you've used ham, chop it in small pieces and return to the pot). Ladle soup into bowls and garnish each with chopped egg and a slice of lemon.