Black bean soup

In this picture: Black bean soup with arugula

This makes 16 to 20 cups – depending on whether you enjoy a thicker or thinner soup.  You can buy a package of dry bean soup mix but it does not give you control over seasonings and sodium levels.

We enjoyed this with a variety of breads but you could easily add cheddar cheese to sprinkle on top, sausages, ground meat, or any number of add-ons.  On the same note, instead of arugula, you could substitute spinach or kale for the green.  The leftovers are going to be part of a beans and rice menu where I’ll cook up some brown rice and spoon the soup over it.

1 bag black beans, prepared*

3 strips extra thick bacon, cut into 1 inch pieces, divided use, drippings reserved

1 tablespoon olive oil

I medium onion, diced, divided use

2 stalks celery including leaves, diced, divided use

2 carrots, diced, divided use

6 cloves garlic, divided use

1 carton Kitchen Basics beef flavor cooking stock

1 28 ounce can Muir Glen Organic Fire Roasted crushed tomatoes,divided use

1 teaspoon Montreal Style Grill Mates

1 tablespoon Italian seasonings, divided use

8 cups baby arugula, roughly chopped

Fry the bacon pieces slowly till crisp.  Remove to drain and reserve drippings.  Heat soup pot and add olive oil.  Gently cook 1/2 each of the onion, celery and carrots.  When they are browned, add 3 cloves crushed garlic and cook for about 1 minute.  Slowly add bean soaking liquid and finally add beans.  Bring to a boil and then reduce to low. Simmer covered till a bean pressed against the side of the pot squashes easily (could be up to 2 hours).  Add cooking stock and 1/2 of the bacon pieces.  Continue to simmer covered.

Gently cook remaining onion, celery and carrot in bacon drippings.  When browned and soft, add 3 remaining crushed garlic cloves.  Remove to a large bowl and do not clean frying pan.  Remove 1 cup of the crushed tomatoes from the can and pour the rest into the frying pan.  Cover and cook on medium low till reduced and thickened.  It should start to brown slightly (BE CAREFUL! It can burn very easily).  Add reduced tomatoes to pot along with the steak seasoning and 1/2 of the Italian seasonings.

Let simmer for another 30 minutes.  This makes a thick soup.  If you want something thinner, add 2 to 4 cups water (or another carton beef stock).  Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.

Just before service, turn off heat, add reserved crushed tomatoes and remaining Italian seasonings.  Stir well.  Finely dice remaining bacon pieces and combine with vegetables in the big bowl.  Add the chopped arugula and mix well.

To serve, put a good amount of arugula mixture in the soup bowl (it will wilt with the heat of the soup).  Ladle bean soup over arugula mixture and stir together.

*Pick over beans to remove any small stones.  Put beans in a strainer and rinse under cold water.  Follow package directions for quick soak or do the following: Put in a large container and add plenty of water (about 12 cups).  Let soak overnight (or at least till triple in volume).  Proceed with recipe.

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