Monday, December 5, 2011

The Soup Project: Old-Fashioned Navy Bean Soup

I discovered this old recipe for Navy Bean Soup last week when I was going through files and found a thick red file labeled "Recipes." I hadn't looked the file in years, but it was thick and when I opened it, I found a treasure trove of old memories. A few recipes from clipped from old magazines, but most were my creations. Among the finds were Shiitake Pot Pie with Polenta Crust, Curried Lentil Salad, Smoked Chile Barbecue Sauce, Triple Chocolate Banana Cake and even a granola recipe from a friend's son that I'd misplaced when I was gathering recipes for The Northwest Vegetarian Cookbook.

A version of Old-Fashioned Navy Bean Soup (with vegetables) is in my book, but this was the original recipe, typed on my old Smith-Corona about 30 years ago. It brought back memories of early soup making, when I was insecure about making stock and unsure about ingredients. I documented everything in those days and I recall wanting a soup that tasted like but better than Campbell's navy bean soup. I know, true confessions--my mom loved convenience and when I was young, I thought all soup came from a can.

I love it when recipes bring back sweet memories--like mushroom soup and our visit to the beach over Thanksgiving. (And that's coming as soon as I get some local mushrooms.)

The salty damp scents, the wind blowing the dogs' ears back as they raced across the sand, this rusty "free spirit" bike on the dock--who really wants to leave those memories behind?

Anyway, I needed something easy, something pantry-oriented because I didn't get to the market for the Cascadia Mushrooms that I'd wanted for mushroom soup.

Instead, my Assistant and I went to Woofstock--the Smiley Dog (delivery service) annual open house on Saturday. When we got there, the warehouse was all festive with hippie posters and heavy on the peace sign-tie dye theme. I loaded up on holiday gifts even got a free catnip joint for Mair Farm cat. My assistant was so happy to be in a room filled with people and dogs he went a little wild, acting like we were at a dog park. From Boston Terriers to Great Danes, Finn greeted them all.

And the cake? First time I'd ever seen a tie dye cake. It was definitely not for the dogs.

They also served the best vegan chili I've had in a long time. With grated cheese on the side, the chili had a variety of beans, carrots, corn, great flavorings and just the right amount of heat. While I enjoyed it, my Assistant tried to poke through my bags and grab his Christmas gift. Could be some coal in his stocking this year if he keeps it up, but then again he might just eat that too.

The chili put me in the mood for beans when we got home. In my pantry I found beans leftover from the markets--about a half a cup of Tarbais beans from Ayers Creek Farm, near Gaston, Oregon, and half a cup of cannellini beans from Willie Green's Organic Farm, just outside Monroe, Washington.

Any white bean works in this recipe. I originally wrote the recipe for navy beans because that's what you find in grocery stores, years ago that's all we could get, and that's what Campbell's bean soup is made with.

Navy beans are common and can be found in any grocery store, and you'll notice the cost of these conventionally grown varieties is much less (about $1.50 per pound, a dollar if you're lucky) than locally-grown organic (between $4 and $8 per pound, in Oregon a little less.) If you're on a food budget, these kinds of ingredients add up, and in that case, consider local beans as a treat, kind of like a vegetarian's version of grass-fed beef. Also consider this: when cooked these beans still cost less than a hunk of grass fed beef. Plus beans have a lot to offer--fiber, B vitamins and minerals with beans.

Shallots, celery and carrots make up the base of this soup. I got quite a few shallots a few weeks ago, and these store well over the winter in a cool room. Some farm vendors at the market still have celery, but it's fading from the local scene. Carrots are just getting sweet now because the colder it gets the sweeter the carrots become. I'm crazy about Nash's carrots, the big clunky variety , so recognizable about town.

If you have white beans from the market, use those, otherwise use navy beans from your pantry. And, it's not exactly locavore fare, but I'm crazy about South River Miso for the best flavor.

Old Fashioned Navy (or White) Bean Soup
(Serves 6)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive or canola oil
1 cup diced shallots
3 to 5 cloves garlic, minced
3 stalks celery, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 cup navy or white beans, soaked overnight and rinsed
5 cups stock or water
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons barley miso
Sea salt
1/2 cup chopped parsley

1. Heat a stock pot or the bottom half of a pressure cooker over medium heat. Add oil and shallots when hot. Reduce heat, stir and when shallots turn translucent, add garlic and continue to stir and cook for a few minutes.

2. Add celery, carrots, white beans, stock or water, oregano, basil, fennel, bay leaf and pepper. Cover and cook on low until beans are tender, about one to one and a half hours. Or if using a pressure cooker, lock lid, bring pressure up over high heat. Reduce heat, keeping pressure up, and cook for 10 minutes. Allow pressure to come down naturally, then carefully remove lid, tilting it away from you.

3. Remove 1 cup of soup. Puree with barley miso, return to pot and blend in. Add sea salt to taste. Garnish with parsley.

Heat your favorite crusty artisan bread or warm some corn tortillas and enjoy a bowl of old-fashioned comfort food.


Miz Helen said...

I really look forward to your post, I have fallen in love with your dogs, and I love your adventures. The Navy Bean Soup is one of our favorites here at The Cottage. I will sure give your recipe a try, it looks delicious! Thank you so much for sharing with Full Plate Thursday. Hope you are having a great week end and come back soon!
Miz Helen

Debra Daniels-Zeller said...

Thanks so much Miz Helen, I love Full Plate Thursday. Navy Bean soup is the best, I look forward to your version and I'll be sure try it!

Sian Lambert said...

This looks good, I might try it within my own Souper December


Debbie @ Easy Natural Food said...

I love the flavor of miso, great idea to add it to a bean soup. Looks soooo tasty! Always look forward to seeing what you're going to come up with next :)

Debra Daniels-Zeller said...

Thanks Debbie, it's interesting the way miso can pull flavors together. I love sharing on your Sunday Soup Nights!

Joan said...

White bean soup is one of my favs! I'm vegetarian but I can't seem to make bean soup without a little bacon...harkens back to those Campbells days I guess...but I'll definitely try adding the miso...great idea, one I never thought of. Thanks!

Debra Daniels-Zeller said...

Hey Joan, so happy to hear from you. I'm telling you there just isn't any replacement for bacon, my last meat hold out so many years ago. I still love the smell and think of the flavor it can add from time to time.