Paul Myszka of Owings Mills requested a recipe for "black bean or Cuban black bean soup similar to what you can get at Ruth's Chris Steak House or Morton's Steak House."
David Booth of Johnstown, Pa., responded with a recipe taken from that city's Tribune-Democrat newspaper. It calls for spooning the soup over rice.
Black Bean Soup
1 pound dried black beans, picked through and washed
1 small onion, cut in half
4 cloves garlic, peeled
2 bay leaves
1/2 green bell pepper, cored and seeded
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 green bell pepper, cored, seeded and finely chopped
3 scallions, trimmed and finely chopped
2 tablespoons dry white wine
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon sugar
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
In a large, heavy pot, soak the beans in at least 3 inches of cold water for four hours or overnight. (Otherwise add about 1 hour to cooking time.) Add the halved onion, garlic cloves, bay leaves, bell pepper, cumin and oregano to pot of beans and soaking water. Bring to boil over high heat. Skim off any foam.
Reduce heat, cover and gently simmer the beans, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour. Add water as necessary to keep the beans submerged. Remove the onion, garlic, bay leaves and bell pepper with a slotted spoon and discard. Meanwhile, prepare the sofrito. In a heavy frying pan, add the olive oil and sofrito ingredients. Cook over medium heat until just beginning to brown, about 3 minutes.
Stir the sofrito into the beans along with the wine, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper. Cover and continue simmering until the beans are very soft, about 20 minutes. Just before serving, correct the seasonings, adding salt, pepper, cumin, oregano or vinegar to taste. The mixture should be highly seasoned. Spoon the soupy black beans over rice.
Tester Laura Reiley's comments: "This is a wholesome, flavorful black bean soup. It could be eaten by itself as a meal as well as poured over rice. At the end of the cooking time, when correcting the seasonings, I added about another teaspoon of cumin and oregano, about 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and another teaspoon of red wine vinegar. The sofrito adds flavor interest and additional color to the deep-purple broth and beans."
* James Kauffman, address unknown, writes: "A chance remark at work got me to thinking about a pudding made by my mother using cornstarch. It was reminiscent of tapioca pudding except it was silky smooth. I've been a chef for 30 plus years and have never encountered it since childhood. All the great maternal ladies in the family are long gone. Hope you can help."
* Marsha Ross of Owings Mills writes: "Help! We, friends and family, love the Jack Daniels sauce at TGIFriday and we've offered to buy some but they don't sell it. Does anyone have the recipe?"
* Elly Simms of Baltimore writes: "While I was in the U.S. Air Force in 1953-56, the women ate in the Navy mess hall at Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii. I ate the best pancakes ever in my life - they almost tasted like cake. I've always wanted to have the recipe. Could a naval chef help me with this?"
* Maria M. Berger of Ocean City writes that she would be grateful for a Smithfield ham and crab meat recipe. "From what remember, you added margarine or butter to a pan, tossed bits of ham around and added crab meat. When I tried it, it was a failure. I recently had the dish at Busch's Chesapeake Restaurant (on the highway approaching the Bay Bridge) and it was superb. However, the chef refused to part with his recipe."
If you are looking for a recipe or can answer a request for a hard-to-find recipe, write to Ellen Hawks, Recipe Finder, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278. If you send in more than one recipe, please put each on a separate sheet of paper with your name, address and daytime phone number. Important: Please list the ingredients in order of use, and note the number of servings each recipe makes. Letters may be edited for clarity.
Pub Date: 12/30/98