Friday, December 30, 2011

Vegetable Soup with Navy Beans

Wow, was my last blog December 18?  Holy cow.  Let me give you a quick recap of the past few weeks - our niece arrived December 19, then it was Hanukkah, husband's birthday, making a few meals (nothing I haven't blogged before) for my brother & sister-in-law, volunteering on Christmas Day at Washington Hebrew Home, a road trip with the in-laws and grandmother-in-law to visit the new baby, home yoga practice and lots and lots of naps to recover from it all.

With all this busyness and craziness, we decided we could use some serious comfort food.  And what's better comfort food in the winter than homemade soup?  Better yet, a hearty, vegan friendly vegetable and bean soup?

I've been wanting to play with dried beans for awhile.  Sure, they're a heck of a lot less convenient than canned, but the trade-offs are worth it, especially when it comes to texture and flavor.  Also, the variety of dried beans at our local Whole Foods is amazing.  They have a number of heirloom beans that I'm really looking forward to trying.  So, if you are able to plan your meals ahead, I really encourage you to give dried beans a try!

For this soup, we decided to go with a simple navy bean.  Fun fact - these beans got their name not because of their color (they're off-white), but "because they were a staple food of the  U.S. Navy in the early 20th Century."  Like other legumes, navy beans are an excellent source of fiber and protein, and are also a "good source of folate, manganese and vitamin B1 as well as the minerals phosphorus, copper, magnesium and iron."

Beans soaking
Beans cooked
I used as a guide to preparing the beans .  After picking through the three cups of dried beans, I soaked them for eight hours in nine cups of water.  I then boiled them in the soaking liquid for ten minutes, skimming foam off the top.  After ten minutes, I reduced the heat to a simmer, added a generous teaspoon of salt, and simmered the beans covered for one hour.  My husband and I tasted the plain beans when they were done and agreed that we vastly preferred them to canned!  We then put them in the fridge to use in today's soup.

One of my favorite soups is minestrone, which traditionally includes vegetables, beans and pasta.  According to Wikipedia, minestrone translates to "the big soup" and is usually made from whatever ingredients you have in the fridge.  What I ended up making was minestrone inspired, as we used up a lot of what we had in the fridge.  But, I elected to leave out the pasta at the last minute, so I'm hesitant to call it a true minestrone.

Behold the aftermath of the chopping!
To start the soup, I diced one large white onion, half a bunch of celery, three yukon gold potatoes and two zucchini.  I also sliced up several handfuls of baby carrots and minced four cloves of garlic.  I sauteed all the veg in olive oil until it was translucent, about ten minutes.  When the good brown bits started to stick to the bottom of the pot, I poured in a little bit of vegetable broth to deglaze the mix.

I then added in a large can of whole tomatoes and their liquid, breaking up the tomatoes with a spoon.  Then, I added three cups of the cooked beans.  Using the neat little herb mill my sister-in-law gave me recently, I ground up some sage and rosemary and mixed that in, along with fresh thyme, dried oregano, sea salt and black pepper.  Finally, I added a carton and a half of veggie broth.  Once the soup came to a boil, I let it simmer for an hour, which made our entire apartment, and probably the hallway, smell like yummy vegetable soup.

We had the soup for lunch today with some crusty bread.  It was warm, hearty and had a nice kick from the garlic and pepper!  Better yet, we have tons of leftovers, and I think it will taste even better reheated, as the flavors will continue to combine.

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