It is a cold and stormy snow day here and I have a pot of bean soup simmering on the stove. It smells fabulous and this kind of weather calls for warmth and comfort. Making soup is one of my favorite things to do. The layering of flavors and the process of building that perfect bowl of deliciousness is a creative venture with few rules that allow the artistic juices to flow with abandon. In other words, it makes me a happy girl.
Let’s talk a bit about beans. They take a lot of ribbing for their ability to produce flatulence, but I love them. There are many varieties available and they all have their own characteristics. Dried beans are available in pre-packaged or in bulk. Usually they must be soaked in water for several hours or overnight so cooking them can take some pre-planning. Some common varieties include pinto, black, navy, chickpeas, white and red kidney and Great Northern. My favorite? Hard to say as I have never met a bean I didn’t like. Really! What’s not to like? Inexpensive, versatile, high in fiber, rich in protein, calcium, phosphorous and iron make them a staple throughout many parts of the world. These seeded pods of various legumes are among the oldest foods known to humanity, dating back at least 4,000 years.
For my recipe today, I chose to use Marrow Beans, available dried all year-long. Depending where you live, you may find them locally but I had to order them online from Marx Foods. I first discovered this variety years ago while working in a restaurant in Sacramento, California. They served this delicious soup with its silky texture and I fell in love. They made theirs vegetarian but I couldn’t resist putting in ham hocks. Remember what I said about few rules? Hope you enjoy my version.
Recipe Serves 6-8
Note: Requires an overnight soak for the beans. Plan ahead.
2c dried marrow beans
1/3 c plus 1/4 c extra-virgin olive oil
2 leeks, white and light green parts, cleaned, diced finely (about 2 1/2 c)
1 medium onion, finely diced(about 1 1/4c)
1 carrot, finely diced (about 1/3 c)
1 stalk celery, finely diced (about 1/2 c)
2-3 smoked ham hocks, option
2 large cloves garlic, minced
2 quarts stock, vegetable, chicken or combination
Sachet: 1 sprig fresh rosemary (or 1t dried), 2 bay leaf, 6 parsley stems tied in a cheesecloth bundle.
2 cloves garlic, peeled, left whole
Sea salt, to taste
Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
8 slices crusty bread, like Italian or French, sliced and toasted
1c grated Parmesan cheese
1T minced fresh thyme or parsley
- The night before, place 2c of the beans in a large bowl and cover with cold water. Soak overnight.
- The next day, drain the beans.
- In a large heavy bottom soup pot, heat 1/3 c olive oil over medium heat. Add the leeks, onion, garlic, carrots and celery and ham hocks. Cover the pot and cook until soft, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add the beans and the stock along with the sachet. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook for 1 1/2 hrs. or until beans are soft. Stir occasionally to avoid sticking.
- Meanwhile, heat the remaining olive oil in a small pan over medium heat. Add the whole garlic cloves and saute until golden brown being careful not to burn. Discard garlic and reserve flavored oil for serving.
- Remove the sachet and ham hocks, discard. Strain the solids and reserve the liquid. Puree the solids adding stock as needed to make a smooth puree.
- Return the puree to the pan with the stock. Thin with additional stock if needed.
- Just before serving, season with salt and pepper. Place a slice of bread in the bottom of each bowl and top with half the grated Parmesan. Ladle soup over the toast and sprinkle with the garlic oil and thyme or parsley.
- Pass the remainder of Parmesan on the side.
This is a giant hug in a bowl, I kid you not. Try to make it soon. I have found it appeals to children and adults alike and I have never heard anyone say they didn’t like it. That is a big endorsement for sure. I warn you, if you present this to your family and/or friends, you might just receive more hugs than you know what to do with. Promise.
What reaction did you receive when you served it?