25 February, 2017
Really, this recipe should be called “Bean Soup to Beat the Winter Blues,” but then it would be a bear to find on Google. So, I followed my inner voice of SEO guidance and stuck to just “Bean Soup.” While we’re on the subject, if you ever want to find any of my recipes via Google, just type “Apartment Eats” followed by whatever you’re looking for, and you should find it. For example, Googling “Apartment Eats Substitutes” brings up the Substitutes and Simple Scratches post, or searching “Apartment Eats blueberry muffins,” at least for me, the first four hits are for different muffin recipes I’ve made that involve blueberries.
Aaaaanyway, I’m sure you all know how to use the internet at this point, so I’ll talk about the thing you really came here for: Soup!
The story behind this soup is a little unusual, like most things I do (it’s what happens when you live by the mantra of “I guess I’ll just wing it and see what happens”). I was rooting through my cupboard and found a bag of assorted dried beans I’d bought a while back. I figured, huh, I’ve never tried making bean soup before, but it can’t be that different from making any other soup…
So, I went to the store, raided the produce section, and came home, ready to make the soup… and then I realized you had to soak dried beans before you could cook them. Sorry, boyfriend. I guess we’re having salmon for dinner tonight instead. He was pretty happy with the tradeoff.
I conned him out of dinner again the next night because I got caught up with some work outside of the apartment, and I missed dinner. Oops.
Determined not to continue my streak of baiting and switching my boyfriend out of a promised dinner of bean soup, I made SURE that I was home the next night… and the internet was out. Like blocked out. The people who run the apartment complex decided to do a purge of any internet accounts that weren’t owned by people’s real names (ie. anyone with a username other than their actual name got blocked, because who would do that in a college apartment complex…). I went to the office and the bookkeeper was out until the next day. So, without any recipe to guide me, I really had to wing it.
After about an hour of some trial-and-error-but-mostly-corrected-error cooking, I finally managed to produce a soup that was not only passable, but actually pretty good — the beans were even cooked all the way through!
So, to save you the pain of having to dither around with temperatures and cooking times, I’ll tell you 1) that bean soup is NOT “just like making any other soup” (it’s a little more intensive), and 2) how to make the soup, step by step. It’s really not so bad.
64 oz broth (low sodium is best; I ended up using 1/2 vegetable broth and 1/2 chicken because oops)
4 whole carrots, cut into coins
5 ribs of celery, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1, 14.5 oz can of tomato chunks (drained)
2 cups dried beans (I used a mix of several different beans, as well as some grains)
1 yellow onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp crushed red pepper (cut down on this if you’re not a fan of spicy soup)
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp crushed black pepper
1 tbsp dried oregano
Grated Parmesan cheese, as a garnish
Before you do anything, you’re going to need to soak the beans overnight, in the refrigerator. To do that, get a large bowl, as they’re going to expand a bit, and for every cup of dried beans, use two cups of water, so that the beans are covered. Place the bowl of beans in the fridge and forget about them until tomorrow night (or two tomorrows in my case; they’ll be fine either way).
When you’re ready to make your soup, get a strainer and pour the beans in. Make sure if you’re using small grains with your beans, you use a strainer with small enough holes that you don’t lose them. I almost sent half of my soaked beans down the drain because of this.
Pour the broth into a LARGE cooking pot (not a saucepan, like I originally tried to use…) and begin to heat on medium low while you prep everything else, throwing it in as you go. I recommend putting the beans in first, as they’ll need the longest time to soften.
Once you’re done letting the brew simmer while you toss everything in, go ahead and turn the heat up to high and bring everything to a boil for a couple of minutes. Then, turn the heat back down to medium low, cover the pot, and let the soup simmer for 30 minutes to cook the beans, stirring it occasionally.
After 30 minutes of simmering, use a slotted spoon to fish out a few beans and check them to see if they’re done. They should be mostly firm when you gently squeeze them, but with enough give to tell that they’re no longer hard. Alternatively, you can go the easier route and just eat one to see if they’re done. That works too.
Once your beans are cooked, you can rest assured that everything else will be, too, and you can serve your soup. I recommend topping it off with some grated Parmesan cheese. Between the heartiness of the soup and the heat of the red pepper flakes to clear your nose, this soup is the perfect dinner (or lunch) to beat those mid-winter blues!