Serves 6 or more generously
Time: 2 1/2 to 3 hours, most of that being inactive while the soup simmers. Does not include bean overnight soak time.
Gluten Free, Soy Free
1 pound dried cranberry beans, Roman beans, navy beans, or any small white bean
6 cups cold water, plus 2 cups water or vegetable broth
2 bay leaves
A pinch of baking soda (less than 1/8 teaspoon)
2 tablespoons peanut, olive, or vegetable oil
1 large (1/2 pound) yellow onion, chopped finely
1 hot green chile, seeded and minced (optional)
3 teaspoons sweet ground paprika
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried basil
3 plum tomatoes (about 1/2 pound), seeded and diced
1 pound calabaza pumpkin, peeled, seeded, and diced into 1/2-inch cubes
2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels (thawed and drained, if frozen)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, rinsed and lightly packed
1. Sort through the beans and remove any random particles or broken beans and place in a large bowl. Add cold, fresh water to cover by 4 inches and soak for 8 hours or overnight. Drain, rinse, and place in a 3-quart soup pot. Add the 6 cups of fresh, cold water, bay leaves, and the pinch of baking soda. Partially cover the pot and bring to a rolling boil over high heat. Skim and discard any foam. Reduce the heat to low, stir, and cover the pot. Stirring occasionally, cook for 11/2 to 2 hours, or until the beans are very tender. A perfectly cooked bean should mash easily when pressed with your tongue toward the roof of your mouth. You should have about 5 cups of liquid when all is said and done, but feel free to add a little more water or even vegetable broth if necessary (or if you like a thinner soup).
2. While the beans are cooking, in a nonstick large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat, add the minced onions and chile pepper, and stir. Cook for 10 minutes, or until the onions are soft and transparent. Sprinkle in the paprika, oregano, cumin, and dried basil, stir, cook for 30 seconds, and turn off heat. When beans are completely tender, add the onion mixture, making sure to scrape every bit into the pot. Then stir in the additional 2 cups of water, diced tomatoes, and diced pumpkin.
3. Puree the corn kernels to a chunky consistency with a blender or immersion blender and stir into the stew. Bring the stew to a boil again over high heat, stir, and lower heat to a low simmer. Cook for 30 to 40 minutes, until the pumpkin is very soft and easily mashes if pressed against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon. If desired, create a creamier consistency by mashing more beans and pumpkin this way, or scoop out a few cups of soup, puree until smooth, and stir into soup.
4. Allow the soup to cool for 15 minutes before ladling into individual serving bowls. To use fresh basil for garnish, layer a few leaves on top of one another, roll into a tight cylinder, and slice thinly to create thin shreds. Sprinkle a few on top of the soup or even stir directly into the soup. Like all bean soups, this soup becomes more thickened and flavorful the next day.