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2 1/4 cups (15 oz) black beans3 tablespoons olive oil3 medium yellow onions, chopped2 serrano or jalapeno peppers, seeded (if desired) minced5 large cloves garlic, minced6 tablespoons chili powder3 tablespoons ground cumin1/4 teaspoon cayenne1 teaspoon dry oregano2 cans excellent quality crushed tomatoes, such as Muir Glen Tomatoes, (28 oz. each)salt and freshly ground pepper1 cup coarsely grated Monterey Jack cheese
Pick over the beans and discard any damaged beans or stones. Rinse the beans. Place in a bowl with plenty of water to cover and soak for about 3 hours. Drain the beans and set aside.
In a large heavy saucepan over low heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onions and chili peppers and cook, stirring, until the onions are soft, 10 minutes. Add the garlic, chili powder, cumin, cayenne and oregano and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Add the beans, tomatoes and water to cover by 3 inches. Increase the heat to high, bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until the beans are very tender and begin to fall apart, 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Add water if the beans begin to dry out but are not yet cooked.
Season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle into individual bowls and serve garnished with cheese.
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