Cuban Black Bean Soup

From Cooking Light

2 bay leaves

1 lb dried black beans

12.5 c water, divided

1 tbsp canola oil

3.5 c chopped green bell pepper (about 3 medium)

2.5 c coarsely chopped onion

1/3 c chopped shallots (about 2 small)

1 tbsp ground cumin

2 tbsp dried oregano

2 tbsp chopped fresh oregano

1.5 tbsp sugar

2 tsp kosher salt

2 c diced peeled avocado

2 tbsp fresh lime juice

2 c thinly sliced red onion

1.5 c chopped low-sodium smoked, fully-cooked ham

1 c chopped fresh cilantro

1 c light sour cream

10 tsp unsalted pumpkinseed kernels, toasted

1/3 c finely chopped seeded jalapeno pepper (about 2 medium)

1. Place bay leaves and beans in a Dutch oven. Add 12 c water to pan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 2.5 hours or until tender, stirring occassionally.

2. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add bell pepper, chopped onion, and shallots to pan; cook 10 minutes or until onion is tender, stirring frequently. Stir in cumin, dried oregano, and fresh oregano; cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat; let stand 10 minutes. Place vegetable mixture in a blender; add remaining 1/2 c water. Puree until smooth.

3. Add vegetable mixture, sugar, and salt to beans; simmer 10 minutes, stirring occassionally. Discard bay leaves. Combine avocado and juice; toss gently. Ladle 3/4 c bean mixture in each of 10 bowls; top each serving with about 3 tbsp avocado mixture, about 3 tbsp red onion, 2 tbsp ham, about 1.5 tbsp cilantro, about 1.5 tbsp sour cream, 1 tbsp pumpkinseed kernels, and about 1/2 tsp jalapeno peppers.

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