NOTE for VEGETARIANS: This recipe can easily be made without the meat - omit the optional ingredients of ham hock and chorizo sausage.
Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large saucepan. Add the onion and two-thirds of both the garlic and jalapeños; sauté for 1 minute.
Stir in the spices and cook for an additional 30 seconds.
Put the sautéed vegetables into a soup pot. Stir in the water/broth, beans, and if not a vegetarian soup, the ham hock. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat, cover the pan, and simmer the beans, stirring them occasionally, for 3 ½ hours or until the beans are very soft. Stir in the salt.
If cooking with a ham hock, remove the meat from the bone and set aside. Purée part of the bean soup with an immersion blender (or in a food processor) and return it to the pot to thicken the soup as desired. Add the ham pieces.
Stir in the remaining jalapeños and garlic. Simmer for 15 minutes.
Adjust the seasonings. Serve hot with garnishes of choice - sour cream (or plain yogurt), chopped chives/scallions, chopped cilantro, cooked sausage, and crispy tortillas or corn chips.
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