1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onions
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup chopped bell pepper (any color)
1/2 cup sliced carrots
1 (16 oz.) can dark red kidney beans, drained & rinsed
1 (16 oz.) can black beans, drained & rinsed
1 (16 oz.) can cannellini beans, drained & rinsed
1 (15 oz.) can diced tomatoes, undrained
4 cups vegetable broth
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
Kosher salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/4 cup dry sherry (optional) (I used this and thought it added a very nice touch. Don't use “cooking sherry.” Cooking wines are loaded with sodium & gives dishes an off taste.)
2 Tablespoons minced fresh parsley or cilantro
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic & bell pepper. Cook for about 5 minutes to soften. Transfer onion mixture to a 4-quart slow cooker.
Add the carrots, all of the beans, the tomatoes, broth, bay leaf, thyme, and salt & pepper.
Cover & cook on low for 8 hours. (Jim and I couldn't wait. We ate some after 6 hours and it was fine.) Remove and discard the bay leaf.
Add the sherry. Before serving, puree the soup with an immersion blender** used right in the cooker. Stir in the parsley & add Tabasco sauce.
**If you don't have an immersion blender, just ladle 2 cups of the soup into a regular blender or food processor. Puree and stir back into the soup. Pureeing a portion of the finished soup also intensifies the flavor as well as giving it a thicker, creamier texture.