Basic Bean Soup
When I was first leaning my way around the kitchen and figuring out how to cook real meals for real people, I steered as far away from soup as possible. For some dumb reason, making soup seemed really difficult. Maybe it had something to do with all those different ingredients swirled together in one pot. Where do you start? I was totally intimidated.
After a few years of giving soup the silent treatment, though, I finally decided to figure it out. I quickly discovered that making soup is actually one of the easiest kitchen skills! Heat some olive oil, add meat if you want, saute a bunch of vegetables, add seasonings, cover with broth. Simmer, stir, repeat.
There’s something so satisfying about stirring together a big pot of soup from scratch. Bonus points if it’s a stormy day.
My sister makes the best white bean soup. I’ve had it several times at her house but couldn’t track down a recipe I liked as well. When I finally asked for her version, she sent me back vague, here’s-what-I-usually-do steps. A testament to how far Soup & I have come, it didn’t phase me at all. That’s the beauty of soup! It’s like a blank canvas, and you get to create something new every time. Change the type of beans! Add a can of diced tomatoes! Stir in some parsley! It’s your party, you can do what you want to.
This basic white bean soup doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles. It’s just a good, honest bowl of soup. Pureeing half of the soup in the blender will yield a thick, creamy soup without defaulting to ingredients like flour or cream. It’s packed with vegetables, broth, beans. Good stuff! If you’re not in the mood for counting calories, do what I do and serve it with a delicious loaf of No-Knead Bread and slices of Parmesan cheese.
One unusual step is throwing in a whole head of garlic. I’ve never done that in any recipe before, but my sister is the better cook so I went for it. Before adding it to the soup, I cut off the end of the garlic and slipped off the papery outer covering (see above picture, lower left). It worked beautifully, softening as the soup simmered. By the time you squeeze the garlic cloves back into the soup, they are mellow and sweet, similar to Roasted Garlic.
Another step that may seem out of place in soup is squeezing in the juice of a fresh lemon. When I got into vegetarian cooking, recipes often called for lemon juice. I love the bright, fresh pop it adds. Lemon juice is a great seasoning alternative if you are looking to cut your sodium intake without sacrificing flavor.
This recipe will give you a big pot of soup. Serve it for dinner, enjoy it as leftovers, then freeze it in individual containers for a quick, healthy lunch option down the road.
Basic Bean Soup
Yield: about 9 cups
I prefer using dried beans. They are so simple and economical to cook (How to Cook Dried Beans). I usually soak them overnight, or for 8ish hours during the day. You could easily substitute cans of beans. The results will still taste delicious, and the cook time will be shorter.
2 T. olive oil
2 c. (1 medium) diced onion
2 c. (about 4) diced carrots
1 c. (about 3 stalks) chopped celery
1 c. diced red pepper
1 lb. (or 3 cans) dry white beans
8 c. vegetable or chicken broth (How to Make Chicken Stock)
1 head garlic
1 lemon, juiced
salt & pepper
- In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the diced onion, carrots, and celery. Saute the vegetables, stirring often, until softened and reduced by about 1/4, 15-20 minutes. Add the red pepper and cook, stirring frequently, for another five minutes.
- Add the beans, broth, and garlic (with end cut off and some papery covering removed), stirring to combine. Simmer until the beans are soft and starting to fall apart, about 25-30 minutes (10-15 minutes for canned beans).
- With a slotted spoon, carefully, remove the head of garlic and set on a plate to cool. Using a large measuring cup, scoop out half of the soup. Pour it into a blender (or use an immersion blender). Using a spoon, push out the softened cloves of garlic onto the plate. Add it to the blender and puree the garlic and soup until smooth.
- Add the pureed soup back into the pot. Squeeze in the juice of one lemon. Add salt & pepper, to taste.
I’ve owned this Amco Enameled Lemon Squeezer (Amazon) for at least four years now. I use it all the time, for any recipe that calls for fresh lemon juice. It is simple to use and easy to clean. It is seriously one of my favorite, most used kitchen tools!
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