Jamie Hogan, broker/owner of Town Square Associates in River Forest contributed the following recipe:

“Cooking is my art and therapy, a great outlet for my creative spirit and with the added bonus of warming the hearts and souls of friends and family. Soup is a happy meal!

“With soup-making, there is a great allowance for creativity and diversion from a recipe. Most of my favorite home soups, starting with stock, are easily prepared in a pressure cooker. So enthusiastic am I about the miracle of my pressure cooker that I call it the single most important piece of equipment in my well stocked kitchen. I know the horror stories of the old-fashioned cookers which exploded with great force and the resultant messes in the kitchen, but honestly, the newer versions equipped with safety valves are foolproof! Using a pressure cooker saves time for weekday family meals and makes quick work of a Sunday fall or a winter soup supper. I have never had a failure. Everything I make in the pressure cooker is something I have also made with a traditional method.”

Jamie Hogan’s Favorite Black Bean Soup

A 6-8 quart cooker in heavy stainless steel is the most versatile for full-flavored meals that would take all day on the stovetop using a traditional cooking method.

This soup is fast and easy in under and hour and tastes like it simmered all the hours a bean soup would usually take. Great for a weeknight after-work dinner. Leftovers freeze well.

Lightly sauté cumin, onion, celery, carrot and bell pepper in a little olive oil in the pressure cooker pan for a few minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients, except sherry, cilantro, sour cream and salt. Cover and lock the cooker. On high heat bring the pressure cooker to high pressure, then reduce heat to medium and cook for 35 minutes. Remove ham hocks, set aside to cool for handling. Puree about half of the ingredients with a stick blender, jar blender or food processor. Remove meat from the ham hocks and add to the soup. Stir in sherry and top with cilantro and sour cream.

As a variation, I also serve this soup as a complete meal ladled over aromatic rice.

1 pound black beans, rinsed
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon cumin seed
2 onions chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
2 large carrots, chopped
8 cups water, stock or combination of the two
2 smoked ham hocks
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Freshly ground pepper
1 dried chili pepper
½ cup dry sherry
1 handful minced cilantro and a dollop of sour cream for topping and garnish

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