Monday, March 28, 2011

Bean Soup

I'll preface this post by telling you honestly that I'm not one of those cooks who gets something going early in the morning and labors over it all day. However, Doug and I were fascinated by a bulk bin of dried beans at the market last week, so we decided to get a few pounds and make bean soup. How gorgeous are all those colors?!

The first thing you need to know about bean soup is that if you're using fresh beans, you do not need to do any presoaking, tearing your hair out the night before, letting things sit in water, etc. If this urban soaking myth was true, rest assured that beans wouldn't be in my pantry. Rather, making bean soup is prettay, prettay simple.

And let's face it: At a cost of around $4 for a big soup kettle full of hearty soup, this is a protein-rich, soul-warming dinner.

2 1/2 lbs. dried beans (we used a mix of beans, but you could use just one if you prefer)
1 whole onion, diced
4 carrots, chopped
4 ribs celery, chopped
4 bay leaves
3 large chicken bouillon squares (those ones that are flat and large, not the perfect square small ones)
Water, salt, and pepper to taste

Rinse and drain the beans, picking through them to look for anything that shouldn't be there. (Not like an elephant is going to hop in your colander, but you know what I mean.) Place beans, vegetables, and bay leaves in a large stockpot with enough water to cover them. Bring to a boil, and then turn down to med-low heat.

Simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours on the stove, checking every half hour or so to make sure you don't need more water. When the beans are tender, add bouillon, salt, and pepper to taste. It's important not to add this early on, as the salt in these spices could keep your beans from softening.

When we were satisfied with the taste, we boiled a small kettle of rice so we could put a scoop on top to complete our bean protein. Then we removed the bay leaves and served the soup.  I added a little ketchup to my bowl--family tradition. Doug thought that was ridiculous.

But I'll tell you what--this soup is delicious and filling. I couldn't even finish my bowl. Bean soup is something we don't make nearly enough, but it's such a nice addition to our monthly dinner repertoire. The next day, you can heat leftovers up and add a little chicken stock to thin the soup out (if you want).

I think this soup, after thickening overnight, would be a delicious burrito filling with some additional spices added....or great mashed up as refried beans. These are just thoughts. Lots of possibilities!

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