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Cuban-Spiced Heirloom Bean Soup with Mint Crema

recipe courtesy of McCormick

Heirloom beans come from seeds handed down through the generations without any genetic modification. They are available in farmers' markets, organic food stores and online specialty stores in eye-catching shapes, colors and amusing names.

1 pound single variety or mixture of dried heirloom beans, such as Anasazi, Calypso, Black Valentine or Cannellini
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups finely chopped onion
1 1/2 cups finely chopped green bell pepper
1/2 pound chorizo sausage, crumbled or finely chopped
4 teaspoons McCormick® Gourmet Collection™ Oregano Leaves, Mexican
1 tablespoon McCormick® Gourmet Collection™ Cumin, Ground
1 teaspoon McCormick® Gourmet Collection™ Garlic Powder
2 McCormick® Gourmet Collection™ Bay Leaves
4 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1/2 cup cubed avocado
1/3 cup thinly sliced red onion
Mint Crema (recipe follows)

1. Bring 6 cups water to boil in large saucepan. Add beans; boil 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Let stand, covered, 1 hour. Drain beans, reserving 3 cups of the cooking liquid.

2. Heat oil in 5-quart Dutch oven or saucepot on medium-high heat. Add onion, bell pepper and chorizo; cook and stir 7 minutes or until vegetables soften. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add oregano, cumin, garlic powder and bay leaves; cook and stir 1 minute or until fragrant.

3. Stir in chicken broth, drained beans and reserved 3 cups cooking liquid. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer, uncovered, 3 hours or until beans are tender and soup has thickened, stirring occasionally and skimming off any foam that rises to the surface. (If mixture gets too thick and beans are not covered by liquid, add water to cover.) Stir in vinegar. Season with salt, if desired.

4. To serve soup, ladle into serving bowls. Garnish with avocado, red onion and a drizzle of Mint Crema (see below).

Mint Crema: Mix 1/3 cup Mexican crema, crème fraîche or sour cream and 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint in small bowl. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

To prepare with Canned Beans: Omit Step 1 and prepare recipe as directed in Step 2. Add 3 cans (15 ounces each) black beans, drained and rinsed, 2 cups water and 1 can (14 1/2 ounces) chicken broth. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer, uncovered, 1 hour or until soup has thickened, stirring occasionally. Stir in vinegar. Continue as directed above in Step 4

Makes 6 (1-cup) servings.

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