Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Bisnonna's Black Bean Soup

A few years ago, my zia gave me one of the greatest Christmas presents I can remember: a recipe box with cards filled out with various family recipes. The range of the recipes was quite wide and varied, covering 1950s classics, which she made copies of my nonna's own cards for, to modern dishes that she makes for PTA meetings. I was so excited. I still am. Every time I open the box and inspect the cards, I get a little thrill. Maybe I'm weird...


There's one recipe in there that I have been dying to try for a while now and last weekend, I finally got up the nerve.

It's one of Bisnonna's classic list recipes. To the end my zia had appended the following note: "Good luck ~ no directions ~ just Grandma's love and intuition <3" Luckily, it's a soup. Soup is hard to get wrong. Not impossible (there's a reason you never saw my attempt at borscht) but hard.

The list reads:
2 cups black beans
6 cups cold water
2 cups chicken broth
3 med. onions
1/4 cup butter
2 bay leaves*
1 clove garlic
2 Tablespoons parsley
1 ham hock*
fresh ground pepper
2/3 cup sherry - dry

*I ultimately ended up not using these items. I'm not big on bay leaves and I couldn't find a ham hock (I also wasn't about to buy a whole ham just to get one, though I imagine this soup would be a great use for leftover holiday hams).

Amy interprets and fills in the gaps:

  1. The night before, soak sort, rinse, and soak beans. If you forget this step a quick soak will work fine.
  2. In a large pot (this makes a LOT of soup ~10-15 bowls depending on bowl size) add the butter, then saute chopped onions and garlic with the parsley
  3. Add water and broth, then bring to a boil.
  4. Drain beans and add to soup
  5. Now for the ham. If you have a ham hock, add it in now but be prepared to remove the bone later, if you're like me as were unable to find one, it is perfectly acceptable to use chopped ham steaks, which have the added benefit of being left in.
  6. Finally add the sherry and pepper to taste.
  7. Continue to simmer on low for another hour to let the flavors blend together.
I give this recipe, or at least whatever came out of the pot, an A+, personally. I only wish that I could interpret this well on Bisnonna's non-soup recipes.