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Cooking time includes time to "quick soak" the beans -- this method seems to work well for those of us who never remember to soak in advance. You can eliminate this step if you soak overnight, or use canned beans. This was published in Cooking Light, Oct 2002. It was "paired" in the article with Oatmeal Molasses Bread - No Yeast Quick Bread. It's subtle sweetness is the perfect foil to the smoky spicy flavours of this soup. You could reduce the liquid a little to make this more like a chili or stew.
- 1 lb dried pinto beans or 2 (15 ounce) cans pinto beans
- 8 cups fat-free low-sodium chicken broth
- 2 cups chopped onions
- 2 cups water
- 1 1⁄2 cups cubed smoked ham (about 8 ounces)
- 1 tablespoon chili powder, blend (not straight chili!)
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 3 bay leaves
- 3 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 (14 1/2 ounce) can diced tomatoes
- 1 whole dried chipotle chiles or 1 whole dried ancho chiles or 1 whole pasilla chile
- 1⁄2 cup shredded cheese (I used white cheddar, but Monterey Jack was the original suggestion)
- finely chopped cilantro (optional)
- lime juice (optional)
- To "quick soak" beans: Rinse and pick over beans and place in a large pot. Cover with cold water to 2 inches above beans and bring to a boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat, cover and let sit for at least an hour. Alternatively, you can soak your beans overnight, or use rinsed, canned beans.
- "Refresh" the dried chile by placing in very hot water for 15 - 30 minutes. Discard seeds and chop finely.
- Drain beans and put them in a large soup pot with broth, onion, water, ham, and herbs and spices. Bring to a boil, cover lightly, and reduce heat to medium-low.
- If you are using dried beans: Simmer 1 1/2 hours or until beans are tender. Then, stir in tomatoes (including juice if you wish) and "refreshed" chile; simmer an additional 30 minutes.
- If you are using canned (or pre-cooked) beans: you can add the tomato and chile with the other ingredients. Cook for a total of 30 minutes or as long as you wish to develop flavours fully.
- Discard bay leaves.
- Serve in bowls garnished with cilantro and a squeeze of lime.
- This freezes well, just freeze (without lime or cilantro) in 1 or 2 serving portions. Thaw in the fridge or microwave straight from frozen. A squeeze of lime after reheating really "freshens" this up after freezing.