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Published: Tuesday, 4/8/2008

Cuban Black Bean Stew

1 or 2 meaty smoked ham hocks

(about 1 1/2 pounds)

Extra-virgin olive oil

3 whole cloves

2 medium to large onions, chopped into 1/2-inch dice

1 small to medium green bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 small to medium red bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

2 teaspoons kosher salt

2 14-ounce cans chicken or vegetable broth

6 large garlic cloves, coarse chopped

3 bay leaves, broken

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano

3/4 to 1 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper

3 generous tablespoons tomato paste

3 15-ounce cans black beans, drained and rinsed

3 limes halved or about 1/3 cup sherry, wine, or cider vinegar

Trim meat away from ham hock bone, cutting it into small pieces. Leave some on the bone. Film the bottom of a 10-quart stock pot with olive oil and heat over medium-high heat. Stir in the meat, bone, cloves, onions, bell peppers, and salt.

Saute 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the vegetables are sizzling and there's a brown glaze on the bottom of the pan (the vegetables need not brown, and take care not to let the glaze blacken).

Add a little broth along with the garlic, bay leaves, cumin, oregano, black pepper, and tomato paste. With a wooden spatula, scrape up the glaze as you simmer the mix on medium-high heat for 3 minutes. Then add the beans and the remaining broth. Adjust the heat so the soup bubbles gently. Cover the pot tightly and cook 20 minutes.

Stir in the juice from the limes or 13 cup of vinegar. Taste the soup for seasoning. Adjust salt, pepper, and lime juice or vinegar to taste.

Ladle into bowls, topping each with a tablespoon of chopped onion. In Cuban style, you could ladle the stew over rice.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Source: The Splendid Table's How to Eat Supper

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