1. Sort and wash beans; place in a 6-quart Dutch oven. Cover with water to 2 inches above beans; cover and let stand 8 hours.
2. Drain beans; return to pan. Add 1 gallon water. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer, uncovered, 2 hours or until tender. Drain beans, reserving 3/4 cup cooking liquid. Place beans in a bowl; stir in reserved cooking liquid and salt. Let stand 30 minutes. Wash and dry pan.
3. Heat pan over medium heat. Add oil; swirl to coat. Add oregano, garlic, and bay leaf; sauté 2 minutes or until garlic is golden. Stir in bean mixture. Bring to a simmer; cook 4 minutes or until creamy, stirring frequently. Remove from heat; remove and discard garlic and bay leaf. Sprinkle with pepper, if desired.
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