smoky black bean and ham soup
I don’t know about you, but during the holidays my refrigerator was so jam-packed that it was like a game of Tetris — stacking Tupperware containers, trying to make room for new dishes while carefully extracting others. Slowly, the leftovers have diminished, but I couldn’t start fresh on my healthy resolutions until I used up all the scraps.
The leftover with the greatest yield was a ham. I had been been staring at the remains of this smoked pork for the better part of 5 days, cutting off slices and chunks here and there to serve with leftover sweet potatoes for a quick dinner, with quiche for an easy breakfast, and in biscuits, which I had made far too many of. I was finally getting to my favorite part of the ham — the bone.
To me, a ham bone is the jumping off point for any number of soups — vegetable and barley, white bean, lentil, pasta, rice, split pea you name it. Heck, just by covering the bone with water and letting it simmer for a few hours, you can achieve a broth that can be used in any number of dishes. The bag of dried black beans in my pantry provided me direction for this particular soup.
I started the night before, soaking the beans. The next day, I foraged for other ingredients in my fridge in order to save myself a trip to the grocery store. I used the straggler veggies that had somehow escaped my cutting board and chef’s knife throughout Christmas and New Years. They included a lonely carrot, some celery, an onion and a bell pepper. A can of tomatoes and some smoky cumin rounded out this thick potpourri.
My hope was to put the leftovers to good use and clean out my refrigerator at the same time. Mission accomplished! This chunky soup was so satisfying with bites of ham, creamy beans and vegetables. A squeeze of lime and sprinkle of cilantro really enhanced the flavor! Winner, winner, chicken… er, ham dinner!
- 1 package dried black beans
- 9 cups water, divided
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 cup celery, diced
- 1 bell pepper, seeded and diced (I used a yellow pepper)
- 1 onion, peeled and diced
- 1 carrot, peeled and diced
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 leftover ham bone
- 1 1/2 cups diced ham
- 1 can diced tomatoes
- 1 jalapeño, seeded and diced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- lime wedges
- crumbled queso fresco cheese
- sour cream
- diced green onions
- In a pot, add the dried beans. Sift through them with your fingers to remove any debris or stones. Add three cups water to cover beans. Soak the beans overnight.
- The next day, drain the beans and set aside.
- In a heavy dutch oven, add two tablespoons of olive oil and sauté the celery, bell pepper, onion and carrot for five minutes or until the vegetables are tender.
- To the vegetables, add the beans, bay leaves and ham bone and 6 cups water.
- Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium low, cover and simmer for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally until beans are tender.
- Meanwhile, in a small sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add jalapeño and garlic and sauté for one -two minutes, until tender and fragrant.
- Add cumin to garlic mixture about a minute, until cumin smells toasty. Remove from heat.
- Using tongs, remove ham bone from the soup and discard.
- Add diced ham, garlic mixture and tomatoes.
- Stir to combine, simmer, covered for 20 minutes on medium-low heat. Serve.
- I serve this with little condiment bowls filled with garnish and let everyone finish their soup with their favorite toppings.