There are many versions of this soup, most of them Sephardic, and they originate from places as far apart as Holland and Greece. This particular version is standard winter fare in Israel, where it is served in every restaurant.
In Israel, brown or field beans (called ful) are used, as these are native to the Middle East. Suitable substitutes are navy beans, white great northern beans, and lima beans. Never add salt to beans before they are soft; it toughens the skins.
2 cups dried beans, soaked overnight in water to cover
2 quarts water
1 bay leaf
6 black peppercorns
1 tablespoon margarine
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon chili pepper
1 tablespoon tomato paste
4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1. Drain the beans, discarding the water. Put them in a soup pot and add water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat and add the bay leaf and peppercorns. Cover and cook over low heat for 30 to 45 minutes, or until the beans are soft.
2. While the soup is cooking, melt the margarine in a skillet and saute the onion over medium heat until it is transparent but not browned. Add onion to the cooked beans along with the chili pepper and tomato paste. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
3. Add salt to taste, and more pepper if desired, To serve, discard the bay leaf, pour the soup into individual bowls, and sprinkle with parsley.
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