1. Heat the olive oil in a large heavy stockpot over medium heat. Add the Onion, carrot, and celery, and cook them until they are tender and fragrant, about 15 minutes. Add the garlic and saute for 2 minutes more. Add the cumin and red pepper, and stir for 1 minute. Add the black beans and 6 cups of water.
  2. Using a paring knife, make several lengthwise slits in the jalapeño, add it to the soup, and add the bay leaves. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer the beans until they are completely tender and begin to fall apart, 40 to 90 minutes, depending on the age of the beans. As the beans cook, add more water, if needed, to keep them from becoming too dry.
  3. Remove and discard the jalapeño and the bay leaves. If you like, you can puree half the beans using an immersion blender, or simply cook them for 15 minutes more, until they nearly dissolve.
  4. Stir the soup, taste, and season with salt and pepper. Ladle into soup bowls and serve immediately. Or refrigerate, and reheat when ready to serve.
  5. Serve with your favorite salsa, or some grated Cheddar Cheese, if you like.
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