1 pound dried black beans (about 2 1/2 cups), rinsed
2 bay leaves
2 medium onions, chopped
1 large red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice or sherry vinegar
sour cream or plain yogurt
chopped fresh cilantro
Rinse the dried beans and sort them, checking for stones or debris. Soak the beans overnight in cold water.
The next day, rinse the beans, cover with water, and bring the beans to a gentle boil with bay leaves. Cook until completely tender, 1 to 2 hours, depending on the beans. Pick out the bay leaves and set the beans aside.
Heat a soup pot over medium heat and add 3-4 T of olive oil. Add onions and peppers and sauté until tender. Add minced garlic and cumin and cook for about 30-60 seconds. Add tomatoes, beans, and cooking liquid. Season with salt. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Cook for 20-30 minutes.
Remove half of the soup from the pot and blend in a blender until smooth. Pour blended soup back into the pot, stir and check for seasoning. Finish the soup by stirring in the lime juice or sherry vinegar. Serve with any garnish you choose.