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Beans, Beans the Magical Fruit

It’s been cold here, very cold; and there’s nothing more satisfying in winter than a warm bowl of soup. I typically make a soup at least once a week. One of my favorites is anything showcasing beans. They’re cheap, healthy and hardy. With very little forethought you can serve up a soup that will delight anyone lucky enough to dig into a bowl of it. Today let’s focus on cannellini bean soup. You can get a bag of these beans for a couple bucks, which will give you a far superior result (particularly for soups) than you will get with canned. Although soaking your beans overnight is a small extra step it will allow for a much creamier texture in the end; which is one of the hallmarks of a great bean soup.

You can approach this soup in several ways to adjust for personal preferences. For example you can use either vegetable or chicken stock. One thing I can’t emphasize enough is just how important it is to use homemade stock. We all use carton stock in a pinch, but your end result will be just that, and will taste like well, carton stock. No worries though, you won’t have a swat team coming through your windows if carton stock is all you have.

I also like near the end of simmering adding some kind of green. Here, you have many options such as spinach (fresh or frozen), kale, or Swiss chard. If you are using frozen make sure to thaw and wring out as much moisture as possible before adding it to your soup. If using kale or Swiss chard, make sure to remove the thick stems are they can be rather tough, and we want to retain some healthy green color in the end result.

As far as herbs go, you can use fresh or dried; rule of thumb being 3:1 ratio. In other words, 1 tablespoon fresh, or 1 teaspoon dried.

HARDY CANNELLINI BEAN SOUP

INGREDIENTS:

  1. 2 cups dried cannellini beans, soaked overnight in water 2 inches over the level of the beans. Add 1/2 teaspoon baking soda to water.

  2. 1 medium-sized yellow onion, diced

  3. 2 celery stalks, diced

  4. 2 large carrots, peeled and diced

  5. 3 garlic cloves, pressed

  6. 2 medium-sized potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks

  7. 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for serving

  8. 2 tablespoons tomato paste

  9. 1/3 cup white vermouth (the alcohol will cook out once it’s evaporated)

  10. 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary

  11. 1 tablespoon fresh thyme

  12. 2 cups vegetable or chicken stock (homemade preferred)

  13. 1/2 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika

  14. 1-2 teaspoons sea salt, plus more to taste

  15. 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Soak 2 cups dried cannellini beans overnight, covering the beans with 2 inches of water and adding 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda to the water. Drain the next day and place in a large Dutch oven or soup pot with a tightly fitting lid. Cover them with 3 inches of water and 1/2 teaspoon baking soda. Add 2 cloves of garlic lightly smashed, and 1 bay leaf. Bring to a boil, cover leaving a little space open for the lid and lower heat to medium-low. Cook beans for 40-60 minutes, or until soft. Drain beans and set aside.

  2. In the same pot, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Once oil is shimmering, add the diced onion, carrot and celery. Cook, stirring often until the onion has softened and is turning translucent, about 5-7 minutes.

  3. Add garlic, beans, tomato paste, potatoes, rosemary, thyme and paprika. Cook stirring frequently, about 1 minute.

  4. Add the vermouth, stir well and let it simmer until it has evaporated, cooking for an additional 2 minutes.

  5. Add stock of your choice, and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Raise the heat and bring the mixture to a boil, then cover the pot, reduce heat and cook gently for 20 minutes. When the potatoes are soft, and the soup is thick and creamy, add the greens of your choice. Stir to wilt the greens, yet keeping their color and some texture.

  6. Taste and adjust the seasoning. You may need additional salt, depending on your personal preferences.

  7. Ladle into bowls, and drizzle with some extra-virgin olive oil.

Serves 6-8

“Beans have a soul.” –Pythagoras
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