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Black Bean Soup with Avocado Crema

We celebrated Easter a while ago and for us that means that there was a ham bone hanging around the house the next day. For a really long time I always made split pea soup but for the last few years I have been making black bean soup instead. I love split pea soup but the boys seem to prefer black bean so that is the route I have taking. I recently started adding the chipotle because my kid was a wimp before but now that he likes a bit of kick to his food, AT LAST, I can spice things up around here. I usually do a chipotle crema but this time the chipotle could go in the actual soup and since that makes it a bit hot, I needed something creamy and cool but that wasn't just a drizzle of plain yogurt or sour cream. While looking at some other black bean soups to get inspired, I found one with an avocado cream on Eats Well With Others and loved the sound of that.

You know, there is almost NOTHING that is harder to photograph than black bean soup. It's a kind of unappealing grey brown with lumps of ham and a bunch of beans floating around in it. It might not be the prettiest soup you will ever make, but man, is it absolutely delicious.

Black Bean Soup with Avocado Crema

avocado crema adapted from Eats Well With Others

*4 cups of dried black beans, soaked and drained (you can quick soak or long soak)
1 ham bone or smoke ham hock
4 cups of water
4 cups of chicken stock (homemade or a low sodium store bought broth)
2 big or 3 small bay leaves
olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 green pepper, seeded and  finely chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tbls cumin
freshly ground pepper
**pureed chiptole in adobo (to taste - start with a tbls and keep adding til it's perfect)juice from a lime or two 
freshly chopped cilantro

avocado crema:

1 avocado
about 1/2 cup greek yogurt
juice of 1 lime

Put the ham bone, beans, water, stock and bay leaves in a large pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered, for at least 1 1/2 hoursAt some point, prepare the vegetables and spices. You can either chop your onion, carrot, green pepper and celery as fine as you can manage or you can whiz it all up in the food processor to mince it. If you are going to whiz it in your processor, don't bother chopping it finely, just rough chop and throw it in your food processor.Either way, heat a good glug of olive oil in a saute pan and sauté the vegetables for four or five minutes until they softens and just start to take on some colour. Add the cumin and the garlic and cook that for another minute and stir in the chipotle before you remove the pan from the heat and set it aside.When your beans seem cooked and soft enough, remove the  ham bone and the bay leaves (discard the bay leaves). Add the sautéed vegetables into the soup pot and continue to let that soup simmer for another half an hour or so while you take care of the ham bone. Let the bone cool enough that you can get in there and take all of the meat off of the bone. Discard any fat and chop up the meat so you can throw it back into the soup. Before you add the meat to the pot, remove about half of the soup  and puree it. Add the pureed soup back into the pot of beans and stir it up.Now you add the ham, squeeze in some lime juice, grind in some fresh black pepper and take a taste. It's up to you how much lime juice (and cilantro) you add so you just need to taste. You could also just add a bit and then serve it with lime wedges and more cilantro so each person can customize it. Let it simmer for a couple of minutes to ensure that the ham gets as hot as the broth. Ladle the soup into serving bowls and add a dollap of the avocado crema to each bowl.
to make the crema: puree the avocado, yogurt, lime and salt until super creamy and smooth and set aside.

*long soak- rinse and pick over your beans, discarding any rocks are things that look like they shouldn't be in there. Put them in a pot or a big bowl and cover them with water by a couple of inches at least. Leave them all day or overnight. Drain them and rinse them and they are ready to use

fast soak- rinse and pick over your dried beans. Put them in a stock pot and cover with with water by a few inches. Bring to a boil, let it boil for 3 or 4 minutes. Turn off the heat, cover the pot and let them sit for an hour before you drain them and rinse them.

** I like to open a can of chipotle chilis in adobo and puree it as opposed to fishing the chilis out. I love the adobo sauce as much as i love the actual chili so I prefer to just use the puree and you can store in the fridge for weeks. It also freezes really well.

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