Full of Bean Soup

You might remember me mentioning my so-called organizational system for recipes that I get from my somewhat ridiculous number of magazine subscriptions. I have a list that I maintain that I tag with the issue and page info, as well as some basic search criteria to help me find the recipes later. For example, I’d tag an apple pie recipe dessert, sweet, apples, fruit, pie, tart, fall, so that next time I have apples and am wondering what to do with them, I can see all the recipes that I thought looked good. It’s a pretty simple system, which is good because anything that would be complicated just won’t get used in the first place. I’d see recipes and forget to log them and they would be lost in the bookshelves and boxes forever. Over the past year, I’ve tagged over 300 recipes that looked tempting enough for me to notice and want to come back to.

The problem, however, is that the list grows and grows each month. And I’ve cooked from the list, oh, some number of times that I can probably count with my shoes still on, and maybe even a hand in a pocket. I almost always forget about the recipe list when I get to craving something, and reach instead for one of my also-too-many cookbook titles. After my last session of inputting recipes (I tend to queue them up for a month and have a data entry marathon), I decided that I need to change this pattern of perpetually adding and never taking away. It is, I realize, a pretty futile attempt since each month I can easily add 30 new recipes and I know I’ll never cook that many in the same time period… the list will certainly always be growing larger and more daunting. Still, I feel like I should at least try to keep it in check.

Last week, when summer vanished here in Seattle, and I got the craving for soup, I knew where I’d be starting my search. It would begin with the list. I had 10 soups already tagged (plus more coming with the recent issue of Sunset magazine), but there really was not much struggle in finding what I wanted to make. I knew, even before I had typed the oup into the search box that I wanted bean soup. White bean soup. And luckily, I had two white bean soup recipes on the list. A white bean soup with chile paste, found in Bon Appetit, and a Donna Hay white bean soup with chorizo. Both looked lovely, and I decided to go with the Donna Hay recipe and use some Italian sausage from Skagit River Ranch in place of the chorizo.

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This soup is creamy (without cream) and hearty, perfect comfort food for a chilly fall evening. It’s delicious with sausage, but just as lovely without, perhaps with a drizzle of truffle oil. For the beans, I used dried cannellini beans, and just soaked in water them for about 4 hours before starting the soup. Borlotti or cranberry beans are a great choice too, or really any kind of shelling bean. If you use a smaller bean, it may need to soak and cook for less time.

That’s one recipe down, 330 and counting to go…

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White Bean Soup with Sausage
Adapted from Donna Hay issue #33, p 104

2 T olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 stalk of celery, sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 lb cannellini beans, fresh or rehydrated
4 cups chicken stock
salt & pepper to taste

optional toppings
1 red chile pepper, seeds removed, and finely chopped
truffle oil
crispy sausage (see below)

Heat a large soup pot on medium heat. Add the oil, onion, garlic and celery, and stir about 2-3 minutes or until they are translucent. Try not to brown the onion. Add the beans and stock, and bring to a boil, stirring to ensure the beans don’t stick to the bottom. Reduce the heat to get a very low rolling boil, almost more of a simmer, cover and let cook for about 1 hour, or until the beans are very soft. Stir the soup occasionally during this time.

The next step is to blend the soup. If you have one, use a hand blender. It’s easier than taking the soup out of the pot. Otherwise, a food processor or standing blender will work too. Puree the until it is smooth. Then, place the soup back into the pot, and season to tase. Continue to cook, uncovered, until it’s the thickness you want. While it’s continuing to cook, prepare the sausage, if desired.

To serve, ladle the soup into the bowl, and top as desired. The soup is great with one, or any combination of the topping above.

Crispy Sausage

For the sausage slices, use a flavorful cased sausage like a spicy Italian or a chorizo. Cook the sausage through first, so it can be sliced. Then, slice to rounds, on a bias, a little less than 1/2 inch thick. Heat a skillet with a small splash of olive oil over high heat. Add the sausage and cook for about 2 minutes on each side, or until browned and crispy.

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