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Monday, February 6, 2012

White Bean Soup with Green Ribbons

Sometimes the farm box is the mother of invention. California is a great place to be for winter, but even here, choices narrow in wintertime. Both the farmers' markets and my farm box have been full of citrus, roots and greens. The good news is, I love all these things. But, I must admit, I'm dreaming of berries and drupes and pickles, Oh My!

This week was so busy for me that I stuffed my farm box into the fridge on Tuesday and didn't get to work on it until Sunday. The busy I've been is all kinds of good, but I sure was glad to have an opportunity to work outside and in the kitchen on Sunday. Let's see, I made sauteed radicchio and chard, vegetable pancakes out of an errant turnip, broccoli stems and carrots, turkey meatloaf and this soup. I also peeled and chopped a pound of fresh ginger to make candied ginger and ginger syrup. (It's boiling right now!) My onion goggles came in handy for processing that ginger. Ginger + eyeballs = no good!

Like most soups, this one is adaptable to whatever vegetables you find in your life. This version is pretty classic and absolutely delicious, if unsurprising. I made use of my crock pot to simmer the beans to tenderness after their soak. The crock pot is a great way to leave something cooking while you work in the yard. Because beans can foam, I've had them spill over and put out my gas burner. Luckily we discovered it fairly quickly and got the windows open and used the whole house fan to suck out the gas. Ever since that episode, I use my crock pot for unsupervised simmering.

White Bean Soup with Green Ribbons
1 1/2 cups white beans, picked over and washed
1/4 cup olive oil
2 leeks
2 ribs celery
5 small carrots
4 oz. mushrooms
8 oz. ham
1 tbsp. chicken base
1 large bunch spinach
salt and freshly ground pepper

Soak the beans over night or do a quick soak by bringing the washed beans and 8 cups of water to a boil. Let stand for one hour. If you have soaked the beans overnight, rinse them and add 7 cups water. Bring the beans to a boil and simmer until tender - about 3 hours on a very low heat.

When the beans are tender, prepare the rest of the soup. Cut the green parts and roots off of the leeks. Split the leeks length wise, then slice thin across the grain. Place the leek pieces in a colander and rinse thoroughly. Drain. Wash and dice the celery and carrots. Wipe the mushrooms and dice. Dice the ham. Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot. Add the veggies and ham and saute until the veggies have softened a bit. Add the beans and their liquid. Add 2 more cups water and 1 tablespoon chicken or vegetable base. (Use stock or broth, if you prefer.) Bring to a boil and simmer until the vegetables are tender. Meanwhile, wash and dry the spinach. Stack the spinach leaves and cut into thin ribbons. Add the spinach to the soup and stir. It will soften very quickly. Taste the soup and adjust salt and pepper.

Makes about 8 cups at about 210 calories per cup. (Yep, we're counting again.)

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