Mixed Bean Soup


My mother makes a stew with a bean mixture that she buys in her supermarket in Florida (Publix).  The mix comes with a “flavor packet”, which she summarily discards.  I’ve been looking for the beans in my supermarket and can never find them, so when I was in Key West last week, my mother thought to buy me a couple of bags of the bean mix to take home with me.

The beans get soaked overnight, then simmered in water for about an hour.  To this blank canvas, you can add a variety of things:  my mom adds carrots, celery, onion, pancetta, chopped mushrooms, and tomatoes. 

I’ve decided to add a few more things that I have in my pantry–some freshly dried rosemary, some sprigs of thyme, some parsley stems (from the freezer),  some crumbled dried porcini,  a piece of parmiggiano rind (from the freezer) and some chicken bouillon. 

I usually feel compelled to saute these aromatics in a separate skillet, then add them to the beans, but tonight, I’ve decided to simply add everything to the bean cooking water and let everything simmer together.  This gives the stew more of a delicate flavor, rather than the deeper, more caramelized flavor of sauteed aromatics (they’re both good but this way’s less work).  I’ll add some raw olive oil to the bowls of soup as I serve them.  That’s the basic soup recipe.  

Tonight,  since the soup will be our entire meal, I’m taking half of the basic soup and adding some some boiled, chopped kale (the last little bag I have in the freezer from this past fall) and some sliced, pre-boiled Italian sausage.  The rest of the basic soup will go into the freezer for another night.

 Bean Soup

1 lb mixed beans (lentils, black beans, navy beans, cranberry beans, cannellini) or use 1-lb of a single bean, like cannellini or navy beans, soaked overnight then drained.

1 medium onion, diced in 1/2″ chunks

2 stalks celery, diced in 1/2″ chunks

1 carrot, peeled and diced in 1/2″ chunks

1/2 cup grape tomatoes, cut in half

2 bay leaves

1/8 tsp dried rosemary (or one sprig fresh)

2 thyme sprigs

6 parsley stems, tied (with thyme and/or rosemary sprigs) for easy removal

5 or 6 pieces of dried porcini, crumbled

1 – 2″ square piece of parmiggiano rind (washed)

3 or 4 chicken bouillon cubes (I’m using 1/4 c”Better than Bouillon” chicken base)

2 tbls tomato paste

Place beans in a dutch oven and cover with water by a couple of inches.  Bring to a boil and simmer partially covered for an hour, skimming any foam that floats. 

Add remaining ingredients and simmer for another hour or until beans are tender. 

If using, add pre-boiled sliced Italian sausage and boiled chopped kale.

Top with grated parmiggiano and raw olive oil at the table.

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