Goals: 2011 and White Bean Soup

Post here more often. Make more food, spend more time in the kitchen. I realize how much peace it brings me to cook, to produce delicious foods, to share those foods with others. Mostly it is Alex and me sharing food, but this year, I want to have more dinners more often, work towards a regular day of the week when people are openly invited to stop by for dinner, something simple and delicious. I want to create more of a home this year, and to me, feeding people is so much of what home is. This last Christmas, my mom and I made over fifteen different cookies and candies to share with neighbors, friends, and family. We had a potential fudge disaster, which with some quick thinking turned into the best fudge we've ever made. Being in the kitchen, working together, was so wonderful. I baked with my mom, cooked Christmas dinner with my dad, made tapas with my sister Angie, and just enjoyed food and togetherness. Today, for the first time in 2011, I'm truly returning to the kitchen - sure, I've made new year's appetizers, huevos rancheros, and other small every day meals, but tonight I'm making split pea soup, fresh white bread, and vanilla bean pudding. I feel peaceful and happy. This is a feeling I wish to have more often. I hope that this feeling in turn creates more desire to post what's happening in my kitchen here.

But to begin, while I wait for my soup to come together and my bread dough to rise, I'll tell you about a lovely, simple and hearty soup I made late last year.

White Bean Soup with Kale, Tomato, and Andouille Sausage

 I found this recipe in the free Oregonian, which is distributed every week to my doorstep, and has its hits and misses. It's slightly adapted from the original. The soup was a hit, though I think it could be improved by a spicier a less generic andouille than I used. It would have been brighter and more fiery, a good balance to the mild beans and kale. But it was still delicious. I suggest getting a spicy andouille from your local meat counter instead of buying something pre-packaged from the deli case. Here in Portland, try Otto's or Gartner's. I don't think you could go wrong either of those places.

You need a large soup pot. If you're still reading here and you don't own one of these, really, give yourself a late Christmas present (or early Groundhog's day present) and go get one. Alex gave me one last year and it is one of my most used kitchen items. You also need to know you're going to make this a day in advance, as you will need to soak your beans overnight. Remember when you are soaking beans to add more than enough water to cover, as the beans will soak it up a bit, and also expand. Use a large enough bowl so that you don't come home to overflow.

I'm getting ahead of myself a bit. How about a list of ingredients? You got it:

you need to have these on hand the night before to soak: 1 lb great northern beans (white beans, dried)

8 oz andouille sausage, and really, get something fresh, homemade, and spicy - you want to create 1/4 inch-ish half moons from the sausage, so you'll cut it down the middle lengthwise, then across to create those half moon shapes.

1 small white onion, 1 and 1/2 carrots, 1 and 1/2 stalks celery (I think we might consider this soup's holy trinity) diced finely. Have a food processor? If so, you'll save yourself large amounts of time and energy by cutting the above into chunks and pulsing to finely dice (though I have a pretty picture of them separated below, doing this altogether is fine, and much more efficient). I love using mine for this purpose. So fast and so finely diced.

1 clove minced garlic

1 and 1/2 quarts chicken broth. It's easier for me to think in ounces. So if it is for you too, that's 48 oz. I use low-sodium from the store. Maybe I will start making broth, but not today.

1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes.

8ish oz kale - stems and ribs removed and chopped. Consider how much you'll be removing and discarding when you buy this at the store, and buy more than 8 oz.

olive oil / tabasco / balsamic vinegar / kosher s & fresh ground p / brown sugar.

This soup takes time, so shoot for making this on Saturday or Sunday afternoon, or getting home from work early to prepare and eat by 8:30 or so. Rinse the beans that have been soaking in a colander.

Fry up the andouille sausage in a pan to brown on all sides, add just a smidge of olive oil so it doesn't stick. Though this didn't occur to me at the time, I think it would be a great idea, to impart more sausage flavor and save a pan, to simply brown it in your soup pot, then remove to a plate while you saute the vegetables. Try that, let me know how it goes.

 In the soup pot, heat about a tablespoon of olive oil over medium high ish (6-7) heat, then saute the trinity until it is soft. Don't burn it. If you need to add a little more oil, do so. This takes about 5-7 minutes - in the last minute, add the minced garlic.

 Next! Add in the beans, the sausage, broth, and tomatoes. Bring it to a boil.

 After the soup boils, cover and reduce the heat to simmer the mixture for-ever. Forever being two or three hours. I think I was happy with the cooked yet firmness of my beans after about 2 and 1/2 hours. So when you think you'll need about a half hour more cooking time, add in your kale. Cook it for another 1/2 hour to soften the kale. I received commentary from soup eaters that it wasn't quite soft enough, so dependent on how soft you like your greens, maybe you'll need 45 minutes.

 At the very end of the cooking add in about a teaspoon and a half of balsamic vinegar, a few shakes of Tabasco, dependent on your vinegar-y, spicy desires, a heaping packed teaspoon of brown sugar, and salt and pepper to your taste. By the way, do you have a pepper grinder? If not, promptly go out and get yourself one! No cook should be using black pepper out of a jar. Feel free to play around with these suggestions to your taste, as all they're all doing is finishing (brightening, spicing up, sweetening) the soup. The recipe suggested using a smoked salt at the end too, so I threw in a little smoked sea salt. I didn't notice it, but have at it if you have the desire. Eat with delicious crusty bread, butter, beer, and friends.

Hope to send more posts out in 2011 - Here's to a new year. -T


Anna J said...

I'm the lucky friend who got to eat that soup! And it was delicious. :)

Martha Monteer said...

Loved this soup! Uncle Dave and I were looking for a change from the usual ham & bean soup and this was perfect. Liked the suggestion of using one pot, but was unable to do this because I bought raw andouille sausage -- what was I thinking?? -- and had to precook it. The kale is a nice touch and balsamic vinegar, Tabasco and brown sugar an unexpected but pleasant addition. Tricia, thank you for all the time you took to share this recipe with the wonderful photos and directions and personal thoughts. Don't want to get too sappy, but I could almost hear your voice as I was reading your instructions. This was a warm cooking experience on so many levels.....Aunt Marty