Sunday, February 6, 2011

It's STILL snowing, so make some bean and sausage soup!

When it looks like Antarctica outside, you need to make yourself a big pot of bean soup.

Get out your big soup pot and throw about two cups of dried beans in there and cover them with water.  You can use navy beans, lentils, split peas or any legumes you can think of except peanuts.  And peanuts might work, too.  For purposes of this recipe, I'm using a nice combination of beans. 

See?  A nice combination of beans...

Cover them with water, put a lid on the pot and let them sit there over night.  In the morning, pour off the water and rinse the beans, put more water in the pot along with two bay laurel leaves and a great big onion, chopped up.  Bring that to a boil, then turn the heat way down.  You can let this simmer all day if you want to, just check it from time to time to make sure it isn't burning and add more water when necessary.

Chop up about three celery stalks and a little of the green leaves.  Dump that in.  I like to be able to see the vegetables I'm eating so I chop my veggies in pieces about 3/4 inch long.  I also like different textures in soup, so I wait until later in the day to add three big carrots and a big parsnip.  A parsnip is a sweet-flavored vegetable.  If you put them in too early they turn into mush.  Mushy bean soup is also delicious. 

Take out the bay leaves after a few hours.  Now add a big tablespoon of ham base.  In my opinion, "Better Than Boullion" is the best soup base on the market but a close second is a Spanish brand called Goya.  That comes in little envelopes.  You can use two envelopes of the Sabor a Jamon.  Third best choice are the little soup packets that come with roasted pork flavor ramen noodles.  Using a soup base like this, you should not need to add any salt, but lots of cracked black pepper is always good! 

About an hour before you're ready to eat the soup, put in half a package of those little smoked sausages, cut in thirds.  If you put them in too early it's fine, because the flavor gets into the soup but it leeches out of the sausage.

Other good things to put in bean soup:

A chiffonade of fresh spinach.  This is a fancy chef word for taking a fistful of leaves, rolling them up in a bunch and then cutting them into thin, spaghetti-like strands.  Spinach provides more color and vitamins, and tastes good with beans.  Cinnamon adds an interesting undertone to bean soup, as does fresh fennel (also called anise, or fennuccio)n but I wouldn't use both in the same pot of soup.

You can eat this stuff thick or thin it down to feed the multitudes.  Like most soups, it tastes even better the next day!  You can dollop it into single servings and freeze it, or do what I do and just put it in your Great Big Refrigerator.

My Great Big Refrigerator.

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