Monday, January 30, 2012

Bean Soup

You don't really need a recipe to make bean soup, right?
I mean, it's basically: beans. liquid. vegetables. meat, if you want. Boil til yummy.

But I will admit that my soup history has been rather hit and miss. So often they end up as what I call "subtly flavored" but the DDH calls "bland."

The problem is that all that liquid dilutes out other tasty flavors, and apparently most people don't have the same appreciation for subtle bean and potato flavors that I have.

Problem number one is definitely my tendency to skip broth and just use water. Duh, you say. Well, to you, I say, I don't feel like buying cans of broth, and I do use bouillon but I guess that's just not strong enough.

I am working on turning all my various chicken bones into yummy homemade stock, but I only have bony chicken parts so often, y'know?

Problem number two is my strange determination to use dried beans. I have a few cans of beans sitting around, because I periodically confront reality and buy them.

But for some reason, I so often end up in the grocery store aisle huffing about the high price of canned beans when dried ones are so cheap and after all it just takes a little forethought to be able to use them and I DO NOT CUT CORNERS I AM A REAL COOKER DON'T YOU UNDERSTAND.

Also, I find dried beans tremendously aesthetically appealing. I find the shiny bulk bins at Whole Foods with their smooth, cool, dried bean contents somehow irresistible. And they look so pretty in Mason jars on my "pantry" shelf.


Planning the week's menu in advance helps me to use the dried beans, since I write myself a big note on my to-do list the day before: Soak beans.

And it worked, this week, anyway.

Bean Soup
Generously adapted from Cooking Light January/February 2012

First, I poured a bunch of dried beans in a bowl. I have no idea how many dried beans equal two fifteen-ounce cans. I also used cannellini and black beans rather than Great Northern ones. Whatever. I covered them with hot water and let them sit on the counter overnight.

In the morning, I drained and rinsed them and covered them in more hot water so they could continue to soak while I worked.

I got home from work and poured the beans with their soaking water (that part's important; see Problem One, above) into a big pot. I added a little more water, put on the lid, and turned up the heat.
Then I wandered off and cleaned out the bunny cage and swept the kitchen floor and spread the bunny litter in the garden and cleaned the kitchen chair rail and at some point turned the heat down a bit since the pot had boiled over everywhere.

That took maybe forty minutes? Somewhere between twenty and sixty minutes. I think.

Then I turned off the stove, moved the pot to a different unlit burner, covered it with a dish towel, and went to the gym.

(I hope what you are gathering from this narrative is the haphazard and non-time-consuming way you can fit cooking with dried beans into your life.)

When I got home, I poured out the beans, reserving the cooking water, tossed some olive oil into the bottom of the cooking pot, added some chopped onion and sauteed for four minutes or so, until the onions were soft.

I added five garlic cloves, minced and sauteed another thirty seconds, stirring constantly.

Then it was time for that liquid. I added about 3-4 cups bean soaking liquid. That's basically the same as vegetable broth, right? It's more flavorful than water, plus your soup gets to retain the bean nutrients that otherwise would get dumped down the sink.

I also added the beans, 1 tsp. savory (the recipe called for rosemary, which the DDH hates), 1 tsp. of thyme, and a chunk of parmesan cheese. This last is supposed to be a piece of parmesan cheese rind, but I guess I don't buy fancy enough cheese to have rinds. It was the little piece left which you are tempting death to try to grate.

Please admire my fancy garlic press, a Christmas present from my mom.
Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer about ten minutes.

Meanwhile, chop up some carrots and leafy greens. I had kale.

At some point in this process, the DDH wandered in, apparently moments away from death by starvation.

He eyed the pile of vegetables and the pot of beans.

"Is there any meat in this?" he asked.

"No. It's beans. Beans have protein. Beans are filling," I replied.

"Yeah, I guess...." he said. He now looked dejected, as well as starving.

"I guess you could cook some bacon and I could put it in," I said.

And so he did.

Stir in your greens and your carrot (and bacon, or ham, or whatever); cover and simmer for fifteen minutes or until carrot is tender. I had to add some more water here.

Stir in 1/2 tsp. cayenne (the recipe called for ground red pepper), 1/4 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. black pepper, and 1 tsp. white vinegar (the recipe called for white wine vinegar, which I both heartily recommend and would have used if I had bothered to actually read more closely and see that it called for white wine vinegar and not just plain white vinegar. Oh well. I like white vinegar in my soups, too. Good substitutes: white wine, red wine, lemon juice). 

You're also supposed to remove and discard your parmesan rind aka chunk o' cheese, but I couldn't find it so I left it in.

Cover in more cheese.

So the cayenne made the soup strangely spicy, and everything else made it souper (ha. hahaha.) delicious.

The DDH comments, "Not enough bacon."

I think that means he mostly liked it, though.

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