Sunday, March 28, 2010

16 Bean Soup

I recently bought a bag of Goya’s “16 Bean Soup Mix.” It's basically a pound of mixed beans, with wonderful variation in size, color and texture. But when the soup was made as directed on the package, it was insipid. I fixed it by adding a chopped up onion, fried with spices. The soup was then delicious, but it called for some more vegetables, which I added the next time I made it.

This is now the best and most nutritious vegan soup I’ve ever had. (And for this carnivore, pretty damn good even compared to a meaty soup.)

Although I gave considerable thought to the pairing of flavors, I'd have to say that other than the beans, water and olive oil, you can probably get away with skipping any (or several) of the soup's ingredients. It is a bit labor intensive, but you also get a lot of soup, either for a big group meal, or for leftovers.

1-lb. bag of 15- or 16-bean mix, e.g., Goya.

2 or 3 bay leaves
1 or 2 cans vegetable [or chicken] broth

1 large or 2 medium yellow onions, to be finely chopped
[optional serrano or other hot pepper, if you like your food spicy, to be finely chopped]
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1½ tsp cumin
1 tsp paprika
1½ tsp flour
2 Tbsp olive oil

3 stalks celery, to be bisected and chopped into 1/8-1/4 inch thick pieces
15 ounce can Petite Cut or diced tomatoes
1 tsp salt

3 carrots, to be chopped about 1/8-1/4 inch, and bisected if fat.
½ tsp curry
~1 Tbsp olive oil

½ pound butternut squash, to be diced
1 tsp cinnamon

1 bundle asparagus. Throw out base 40%. Chop the rest 1 cm long, except very tip, ~2 cm
1 cup cider

Soak beans that morning (if for dinner), or overnight (lunch).

About 2½ hours before serving: Drain the beans; put in a soup pot; add bay leaves, broth and water to bring liquid to 4 cups; bring to a boil and then simmer, covered. Throughout, stir occasionally, adding water if necessary.

Now you have a half hour or so to chop everything.

In a bowl, combine onion [and pepper] with spices. In a large frying pan on medium heat, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and when hot, the onion mixture. Mix/flip with a spatula as needed. After frying to some brownness, add onion mixture to soup pot, leaving behind what oil you can. Also add celery, salt, and tomato to pot. It is now perhaps 1½ hours before serving.

Now add olive oil to frying pan to bring it back to about 2 Tbsp. Brown the carrot/curry mixture, and then add to soup pot.

Again add olive oil to bring back to about 2 Tbsp. Brown the diced squash/cinnamon mixture, and then add to soup pot.

Continue to occasionally stir the simmering, covered pot.

About 20 minutes before serving, add cup of cider and asparagus directly to the soup (no frying). Taste a spoonful (no asparagus, of course) and ponder the salt level and flavor. Keep the soup covered unless you think it needs to boil down.

Most people will find the soup could use some more salt, so you can add some more if you know you don’t have anyone used to low-salt eating, or put a shaker on the table. If you like your food spicy you may also want to put a hot sauce or hot Indian cilantro chutney on the table, especially if you didn’t chop in hot pepper with the onions.