Cuban Black Bean and Ham Soup
2   (15-ounce) cans black beans, undrained  
1/2 lb    lean or low-fat cubed ham  
1/2 Tbs    olive oil  
3/4 cup    diced onions  
1/2 cup    diced red bell peppers  
1 Tbs    minced garlic  
1/4 tsp    ground cumin  
1 1/2 Tbs    chopped fresh cilantro  
1/8 tsp    dried thyme  
1/2   (10-ounce) can Rotel tomatoes (or other chopped tomatoes with chilies)  
1/2   (6-ounce) can tomato paste  
3   (14-1/2-oz) cans fat-free chicken stock  
  salt and black pepper to taste  
  low-fat or fat-free sour cream  
  cilantro for garnish  
1 In a 5-quart stockpot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onions, red bell peppers and garlic. Saute vegetables for 3 minutes.
2 Stir in ham and cook 2-3 minutes or until slightly brown around the edges.
3 Season with cumin, cilantro and thyme. Saute for 1 minute to allow spices to toast.
4 Blend in chopped tomatoes and tomato paste. Add chicken stock and black beans. Bring to a rolling boil, reduce to simmer and cook for 40 minutes.
5 Season to taste with salt and pepper. If a thicker, smoother soup is desired, puree half of the soup in a blender or with a hand mixer.
6 Serve hot with a dollop of low-fat or fat-free sour cream and a sprig of cilantro.
Servings: 4
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