Dinner @ 226 - Lazy Day Bean Soup

As we enjoy the last few days of open windows and longer sunlit nights, I feel a shift. It happens this way every year. I feel myself move from fresh, raw ingredients and simple salad assemblies to steamy comforting bowls and heartier fare. Maybe its our natural instinct as humans. Maybe we need some extra insulation for the cold winter. Maybe it is my desire to keep my family full and warm as the nights turn cold. Whatever it is, I'm feeling it. And, I'm not fighting it.

It's a strange time, isn't it? The shift of seasons. We're having brainstorming sessions about Halloween costumes and planning and anticipating our favorite fall activities. Leaf jumping? Festival going? Pumpkin carving? Apple picking? Applesauce making? Though I resent fall because it puts a period at the end of summer, and summer will always be my season. Not only that but it is also undoubtedly followed by Winter, a hard season for everyone in this house. Even with these complaints, I admit, it is hard to not get into the spirit of things.

This is my introductory course for fall. We've had a few brisk evenings where this soup left everyone full and warm, not to mention smiling. I know we'll have many more nights of needing warmth but this is a good start. I made it entirely in the crock pot, which may sound like cheating to you? But, I promise it does not taste like any corners were cut. This soup is thick, without being heavy. It's wholesome and comforting but still healthy, in a not healthy-tasting way.

If you've never poured hot soup over stale bread cubes, you have to try it. I wish I didn't have to call it "stale" bread cubes because I know that does not sound appealing. But, trust me. Try it. You'll thank me for putting this little gem of an idea in your head.

Lazy Day Bean Soup
Note: This recipe may sound verbose because I'm not a master of writing recipes yet. So, don't be intimidated by the word count. Plus, the slow cooker does most of the work for you. Read through it first, it's really pretty simple and it will turn out a fine bowl of bean soup. Very fine, indeed.

In crock pot:
1 lb rinsed white beans (no need to soak)
2 bay leaves
1/2 an onion
3 garlic cloves, smashed
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 stems fresh sage
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (less is you are heat averse)

Put all of these ingredients in the crock pot. Add a 32 oz. box of vegetable stock (or homemade equivalent). Add water, filling the pot an inch from the top. Put a lid on it. Not to be confused with Put a Ring On It, which happens to be Beckett's favorite song.

Cook on low for 5-6 hours.

Fish out the bay leaves and herb stems and toss them. Fish out the softened garlic cloves and smash them into a past on a cutting board and return them to the pot. Using an immersion blender, blend the soup for less than 10 seconds. You want some of the clear broth to become thick and rich but you definitely still want some whole beans. Add 8-9oz. frozen spinach and recover.

Warm 2 T Olive Oil over medium heat. Throw in:

1 onion, chopped
4 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 celery stalks trimmed and chopped

Saute until all vegetables are soft. Dump all the vegetables into the slow cooker, with the beans and spinach. Add salt to taste. I used about 2 teaspoons.

Cube up some stale bread. It can be yesterdays baguette or some leftover Italian loaf you threw into the freezer. Scatter onto a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and a hefty pinch of salt. Bake in a 400 degree oven for about 8 minutes, until slightly golden and crusty.

Distribute bread into the bottom of bowls, fill bowls with soup and top with shaved Parmegiano Reggiano and a glug of your best olive oil, for richness.

And, drink up these last days of summer. Barefoot.

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