Friday, April 8, 2011

Soup's On: Bean Soup That's Fast, Easy, and Delicious

(NOTE: Savoring the Seasons is this week's From a Local Kitchen on the Seacoast Eat Local blog! Thanks, Debra!)

I felt like I was losing a friend when Mark Bittman's last Minimalist column appeared in The New York Times on January 25th. For thirteen years, I'd looked forward to reading it every Wednesday. I learned countless tips for making delicious meals with a minimum of fuss. In particular, I enjoyed being inspired by what I like to call the Bittman 101s, an ongoing series of 101 ideas for simple salads, picnics, appetizers, etc.  that could be made in 20 minutes or less.

However, if the first few weeks of Bittman's new endeavor, Eat, in the The New York Times Sunday Magazine are any indication, I needn't have fretted. (Yes, there is a paywall now, but you are allowed 20 free articles a month  -- or you can just order the Sunday Times.)

Right out of the box, there was a column that blew me away. Called Creamy, Brothy, Earthy, Hearty,  it was essentially a guide to making easy, yet delicious vegetable-based soups, most of which can go from stove to table in under an hour. This includes making your own vegetable stock!

We'd recently bought some dried peregion beans from Baer's Best Beans at the Seacoast Eat Local Winter Farmers' Market. (There are two remaining: April 9th and 23rd at Exeter High School) So I was eager to try the bean soup recipe. As this was a spur of the moment thing, there was no time for overnight bean soaking.  However, I've found that as long as your dried beans aren't too old, this step is unnecessary. It's a great reason to buy dried beans from the farmers' market as opposed to the grocery store. (Not salting beans during cooking is another old wives' tale you can ignore. It doesn't make them tough; in fact, it makes them delicious!)

In less than an hour, we were having a hearty, homemade soup for lunch. Bittman's column featured four different categories of soup; twelve soups in all. I can't wait to sample each one--and then be inspired to create my own!

Earthy Bean Soup ala Mark Bittman
Put 1 1/2 cup dried beans, 1 chopped onion, 2 chopped carrots, 2 chopped celery ribs, 2 bay leaves, 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves and 6 cups water in a pot over high heat.

Boil, lower the heat, cover and simmer until the beans are soft, at least 1 hour, adding more water if necessary. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish: A drizzle of olive oil.

NOTE: We began by sauteing the onion, carrots, and celery before adding them to the beans; then when the beans were almost tender, added some leftover chopped Kellie Brooks Farm ham that we had on hand in the freezer.

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