Ron's Sweet Potato, Ancho Chili, and Chard Soup

INGREDIENTS

• 5 cups water
• 4 dried ancho chili peppers
• 10 cloves garlic, unpeeled
• 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt, or more as needed
• 1 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican
• 1 medium sweet potato (about 1 pound), scrubbed and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
• 1 bunch Swiss chard (about 8 ounces), greens and stems thinly sliced
• 1 1/2 cups no-salt-added canned pinto beans (from one 15-ounce can), drained and rinsed
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DIRECTIONS

  1. Bring the water to a boil in a large pot over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low so the liquid is barely bubbling, and cover to keep it warm.
  2. Stem and seed the chilies, reserving the seeds.
  3. Place a large skillet over medium heat, then add the chilies. Cook, turning frequently, until they soften and start to blister, 20 seconds per side. Transfer them to the pot of water and cook, uncovered, until they become very soft, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and use a slotted spoon to transfer the chilies to a blender or food processor. Reserve all the cooking water.
  4. Put the skillet back over medium heat and toss in the unpeeled garlic cloves. Cook, shaking the pan occasionally, until the cloves are browned in several spots, 4 to 5 minutes. Let cool slightly, then peel them.
  5. Add the peeled garlic cloves to the blender, along with the salt, oregano and about 1/2 cup of the reserved cooking water. Puree until smooth. Taste, and if you'd like it to be spicier, blend in some of the reserved chili pepper seeds, 1 teaspoon at a time, until the puree reaches your desired level of heat (keeping in mind that you are going to dilute it).
  6. Stir the puree into the pot of cooking water; increase the heat to medium-high. Add the sweet potato, chard and beans; once the mixture comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low so the liquid is gently bubbling. Cook (uncovered), stirring occasionally, until the sweet potatoes are just tender, 6 to 10 minutes. Taste, and add salt, as needed.
  7. Serve hot.