Although the solstice has passed and the sun is slowly creeping its way back into our lives, we still have a lot of winter left. A hearty bean soup is one way keep your energy and stay warm until temperatures rise.
My favorite take on this bean soup is Creole-style. For those who prefer it, small red beans make a good substitution. A few handfuls of winter greens, such as mustard or Savoy cabbage, are good additions to this meal, too. You don’t need to be very precise with the amounts of ingredients you use—just keep the balance of flavors to your taste.
Of course, you can slow down this recipe by cooking the beans from scratch first. To prepare dried beans for a soup, soak them for 6 to12 hours, drain and rinse. Cover the soaked beans with fresh water, and cook until tender (about 1 to 3 hours).
It’s easy to keep the soup vegetarian, but if you’re using ham bones, you might want to chill the soup after the first stage of cooking to easily remove any fat before adding in the rice and beans. Doing so will stretch the cooking process even more.
Cooking the rice before adding it is not optional, however. The rice will absorb all the other liquid if it’s cooked in the soup itself.
Serve this soup with cornbread or crusty whole grain rolls. You can also pair it with a piece of well-flavored cheese and a lightly acidic green salad with fennel and oranges. Don’t forget to get the fire going in the wood stove, too!
Yield: 4 servings
- 2 carrots, chopped
- 1 green bell pepper, chopped
- 2 stalks celery, chopped
- 1 large clove garlic, chopped
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2 cup chicken or vegetable broth
- a ham hock, ham bone or 1 c. leftover cooked ham (optional)
- 1½ cup cooked or canned black-eyed peas
- 1 cup cooked rice, white or brown
- 1 cup tomato purée or diced tomatoes
- 6 large mushrooms, chopped
- 1 tsp. thyme
- dash Worcestershire sauce
- sprinkle of cayenne (optional)
- salt and pepper to taste
In large soup pot, gently sauté all chopped vegetables besides mushrooms. When softened, add broth and hock or ham bone. (If only using bits of leftover ham, wait to add that.) Cook for about 1 hour over low heat. Then remove from heat, take out the hock or bone, cut away any meat and reserve it.
Put the soup back over low heat. Add the thyme, tomatoes, mushrooms, black-eyed peas and rice. Heat thoroughly, seasoning as desired. Add up to 1 cup additional broth or water if soup seems thick. Five minutes before serving, add Worcestershire sauce, cayenne and any reserved ham.