Oh, I made a soup.
it turned out!
It turned up…I almost had to say to this particular soup “turn down for what?”
This soup, in fact, and the act of making it, was kind of a big deal. Last year was hectic and I was all in a flurry. I didn’t have a lot of time to enjoy and relish in Autumn or do many “Autumn-y things.” This included missing out on beloved soup and pie making and any holiday decorating. Looking back, I’m sad I missed all of these things, but I am understanding of myself as well. This year, however, I have been downright cherishing the season. October and November are my favorite months of the year, and it has been of the utmost importance to me simply to enjoy them. I feel as though every day I am raving about the beauty I see all around me, and reveling in the colors, flavors and scents of Autumn.
Two soups I made this weekend to do just that, but this is the one that gets featured because it was remarkably simple and heartily delicious:
Rustic White Bean Soup
Served 2 people for 2 meals
2 cups white beans, soaked overnight (not sure the variety. white beans sitting in a jar, belonging to my roommate that she kindly let me use.)
2 Tblsp extra virgin olive oil
1 large carrot, diced
1 yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed through a garlic press
1 stalk celery, diced
3 slices applewood smoked bacon, thinly sliced into 1/4″ strips
2 sprigs sage, whole OR 1 1/2 tsp dried sage leaves
salt and pepper, to taste
Drain the beans of about half of their soaking liquid. Pour them into a heated, medium sized, heavy bottomed pot. Cover with water by about three inches. Bring to a boil. Return to a simmer and cook until they are mostly tender, but still a bit firm (al dente). I carelessly didn’t time this, but experience and the internet tell me that this process should take anywhere between 45 minutes to 1 hour 20 minutes. While they are cooking, check them every 20 minutes or so and add more liquid as needed. When you add the beans to the soup, you want the amount of liquid to be soupy, whatever that means to you. I trust you know how you like soup to be, and can judge the liquid amount accordingly.
When the beans are about 2o minutes from being finished, in another medium sized, heavy bottomed pot over medium high heat, pour the olive oil. When the oil has thinned and you begin to see a rippling effect in the oil over the surface of the pan, add the onion and the garlic. Stir periodically for about three minutes. When the onions are translucent and both are very fragrant, but have no caramelization, they are ready to meet the carrot and celery. Stir them in, cook for three minutes. Add the bacon now, and stir until it is opaque and cooked through. The beans should be ready at this point. Add them with their cooking liquid and continue to cook them until they are tender. Add more water as needed to adjust the consistency to your preference. Season with salt and pepper to taste. If you have used sprigs of sage, remove the sprigs now. Serve hot, with crusty bread.
I will tell you here that I love my garlic press. I use it almost every time I cook. It is the one tool in the kitchen (aside from the necessary ones) that I use most often and adore. I don’t honestly think I could do without it, and if you don’t have one, I encourage you to buy one. Another note about garlic here is that peeling those tiny cloves can be quite easy. Simply place the cloves on the cutting board in a row. Lay your knife blade horizontally over them, so the flat side is up and the blade is facing away from you. Press down firmly with your hand until you hear a “pop”. Lift up your knife, wet your fingertips under a running tap, and easily remove the peels.
About white beans: I believe the white beans I used were navy beans, though I can’t be sure. When you are using dried beans, if they have expired, they may never cook to the tender point you desire them to be for eating. Ensure that your beans have been purchased within the last 6 months to a year and soak them for at least 8 hours before attempting to cook with them. (You can cheat by using the quick soaking method, linked above in the recipe, but it won’t be as effective with older beans.) I feel hypocritical telling you this because I never soak my beans…I always cook them from dry…and I always wish I had soaked them. It’s an uphill battle, folks.
Oh, and another thing: with simple soups containing either beans or vegetables, I use water, never stock or broth. I learned this in culinary school, and after testing out various methods, this is the one I stand by. The reason for this is that the water provides a clear, clean background for these more mild flavors to shine through, rather than “muddying” up the flavor with muddled veggie scraps. I can control the amount of salt, seasoning and aromatics by doing this as well. I love the concentrated flavor of cooking liquid used for dry beans, so water is perfect for this soup. I know I’ve mentioned this before, but I really do love it.
Garnish with rosemary or sage leaves if you’ve got them and if you’d really like to, you can fry up some additional bacon to crumble over the top for added tastiness.
Happy soup making! Don’t let the season go by without making plenty of soups. Portland’s seasonal ingredients are perfect for it.