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    Black bean soup

    Makes 12 (lunch) to 16 (Soup Course) Servings

    2 lb. dried black beans, picked over and rinsed
    4 qts. water, more as needed
    1 white onion, chopped
    2 carrots, peeled and chopped
    2 ribs of celery, chopped
    4 oz. salt pork, rind discarded and cut into 1/4 -inch pieces
    1 3/4 lbs. smoked ham hocks (about 3)
    2 garlic cloves, minced
    2 tsp. white pepper, more to taste
    1/2 tsp. ground cumin
    1/2 tsp. dried oregano, crumbled
    2 tsp. salt, more to taste
    1/4 c. minced fresh cilantro for garnish
    2 fresh Serrano chiles, seeded and minced, for garnish
    4 slices crisp bacon, crumbled, for garnish
    1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese for garnish
    1/4 c. minced Bermuda onion for garnish
    Prepared pico de gallo for garnish (recipe follows)

    In an 8-quart soup pot, combine the first seven ingredients. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, covered, for 15 minutes.
    Stir in the next five ingredients and continue to simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally until the beans are very tender and the soup is reduced to about 4 quarts, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

    Discard the ham hocks and puree the soup. Adjust the consistency with additional water if needed, and season with 1 tsp. salt, or to taste, and additional pepper as desired.

    Ladle the soup into heated bowls and serve garnished with the cilantro, chiles, bacon, cheese, red onion and pico de gallo.

    Pico de gallo

    4 1/2 TBL minced white onion
    4 1/2 TBL minced tomato
    3 TBL minced cilantro
    3 fresh Serrano chiles, seeded and minced
    1 TBL fresh lime juice
    Salt to taste

    In a serving bowl, toss together the first five ingredients. Season with salt to taste.
    Makes about 1 cup pico de gallo.

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