This black bean soup has old-world, slow food flavor. The bacon is optional, but be sure to use a good quality sherry. You end up with about 9 cups of soup. Enjoy!
16 oz. dried black beans
3 slices flavorful bacon, diced
1 large onion, diced
4 medium carrots, diced
1-2 stalks celery, diced
2-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 small red hot pepper, finely diced
1 bay leaf
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
½ T. dry mustard
2-4 pinches cayenne (to taste)
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 T. tomato paste
4-8 c. beef or mushroom broth, plus enough water to make 10 c. liquid
½ c. dry sherry
Feta cheese (for garnish)
Soak beans overnight.
Lightly coat the bottom of a soup pot with olive oil and heat over medium heat. Add bacon and slowly fry, rendering as much fat as possible. When bacon is crispy, remove about two-thirds of it and set aside. Add onions, carrots and celery to pan and cook, gently, for 5 minutes or until vegetables are soft. Add garlic, red pepper and bay leaf to the pan cook until the garlic is fragrant. Add black pepper, dry mustard and cayenne and cook 30 seconds or so.
Drain beans and rinse them under cold water. Add beans, Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, broth and water. Bring ingredients to a boil, turn down heat, and simmer, gently, until beans are tender (2-2 ½ hours). Let soup cool slightly.
Puree 5 cups of soup in a blender and return to the pot. Add salt to taste. Add sherry and reserved bacon to the pan and bring it up to a simmer again. Simmer for 10 minutes, then check seasoning. You may need to add cayenne or salt. (Note: Do not oversalt soup as the feta cheese will be salty.)
Serve hot, garnished with feta cheese.