Basque Red Bean Soup

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SERVES 8

Like many soups and stewed dishes, this simple and hearty staple of traditional Basque- American cooking tastes better the day after it is made. It's quite good right out of the pot the first day, however.

1 lb. small dried red beans, rinsed
8 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 green bell pepper, stemmed, cored,
seeded, and finely diced
1/2 leek, white and light green parts only,
trimmed, washed, and finely diced
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and finely diced
3 tbsp. paprika
1 cup tomato sauce
Salt

1. Put beans, 6 tbsp. of the oil, peppers, leeks, 1 cup of the diced onions, and 1 gallon of cold water into a large pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until beans are soft, about 21/2 hours.

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2. Heat remaining oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add remaining onions and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low, stir in paprika and tomato sauce, and simmer until sauce is slightly thickened, about 8 minutes.

3. Add tomato mixture to pot of beans and cook, stirring occasionally, until soup thickens, about 1 hour. Season to taste with salt and serve. (If you prefer to serve the soup the following day, transfer it to several smaller containers and let it cool completely before covering the containers. Refrigerate soup overnight or for up to 2 days. Reheat soup before serving.)