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Black Beans

1 cup black beans, soaked overnight or 6-8 hours
1 bay leaf
2-3 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
one small onion
two carrots
two ribs celery
one green bell pepper
two tomatoes OR
1 cup (plus a little bit) canned tomatoes (with juice)
1 bunch cilantro
1-2 tsp cumin
lemon juice

Put beans, bay leaf and 2 cups water in a large saucepan or kettle
and bring to a boil. Skim off any foam. (note: this amount of water
will make a thick, stew-like consistency. If you want more of a
soup, add more water.) Simmer, covered for 1 1/2 hours or until
beans are tender.

As you are boiling and simmering, chop the garlic and vegetables
and add them to the pot as you finish them. If you are using canned
tomatoes, add them as well. If you are using fresh, you can add
them at the very end and they will retain their shape and color,
providing a little bit of extra texture. (The tomato taste wont be
as well-integrated, however. Take your pick.) Chop a goodly amount
of cilantro and either add half of it now and save the rest until
the end to add with the tomatoes.

After adding all the vegetables, add the cumin. Continue simmering.
15 minutes before you wish to eat, add Tobasco as you like. Season
with salt to taste. Just before serving add lemon juice (about half
a small lemon), and reserved tomatoes and cilantro. Cook a few more
moments to heat through.Remove bay leaf.

Serve with rice (I like brown) or tortillas. Its good with a healthy
dollop of plain yogurt, or you can garnish with sour cream and
grated cheddar cheese as well. The yogurt has a nice tang, though.


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