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Easy-peasy bean soup

So, what's so great about beans?  Everything!  First, they are super high in fiber, being the perfect food for blood sugar stability.  They are also high in protein and low in fat so you can add your fat by tossing in 2 - 3  tbsp. olive oil, or the meat suggestions at the end. If your gut isn't used to beans, the salting overnight with the bit of baking soda will help with digestion as it helps break down the tough exterior of beans. The baking soda further breaks it down. Also, as your gut heals and your bacteria become more healthy, the digestion gets much better.  With the "right" balance of gut bacteria, you should not have gas....

For many years I have made "US Senate Bean Soup" about a week or so after Christmas because I always have a ham hock in the freezer.  This soup has been served in the Senate cafeteria since WWII and is simply delicious!  But it's an all day affair, starting the night before....

This year, I got lazy and found a way to make the "same" soup with only a few minutes hands-on.  Sorry, Senate, you're too dysfunctional anyway to make your soup so now it's the Mary Anne bean soup.

Here it is:
1. The night before, dissolve 2 heaping TBSP salt (use kosher or the TJ sea salt in the blue cylinder) and 1/8 tsp baking soda in a cup of boiling water.  When salt is dissolved, pour the salty water into a 4 - 6 qt heavy duty pot. Place 1 1/3 cup rinsed white beans into the pot, (I love the Peruana bean from Grower's Ranch on 20th at Npt Blvd in Costa Mesa) but any white bean will do. Add enough water to cover the beans by about 3 - 4 inches.   Place lid on pot and leave on counter overnight.

2. Next day, drain the beans, (no need to rinse) and cover the beans with water by about 4 inches.  (you can add more later to get the consistency you want). Add 2 containers of MirePoix (trader joe's) vegetables and turn on the heat.  When it comes to a boil, add enough Better than Bouillon organic chicken broth paste to get the level of saltiness to your liking.  Depending on how much water is in the pot, this will be a few to several Tbsp of the paste.

3. Once brought back to the boil, turn burner to low and simmer until beans are soft.  This will take from 1 - 2 hrs depending on bean. (I do this fairly early in the day and just let it simmer as the fragrance fills up the kitchen! 

4.  When beans are to your liking, add a few minced or pureed garlic cloves to the pot and 2 - 3 big handfuls organic baby spinach leaves.  Stir to incorporate the spinach and garlic into the beans. Put lid on pot and turn off heat.  This will preserve the health-giving qualities of both the garlic and the spinach.  The spinach wilts pretty quickly and this vegetarian version of the soup is ready to eat in about 5 min.  (if you're strict vegetarian, use veg broth but it won't be as tasty :-)

5. For meat-eaters, add a package of cut up pre-cooked "sausage" of your choice from the many at Trader Joe's.  My personal favorite is the uncured Bratwurst.

When I made this soup yesterday, I happened to have on hand some bacon bits from the uncured black forest bacon at TJ's. that I'd chopped up and cooked over the weekend. (This one is meatier than the Applewood uncured one) and therefore fewer calories.  This adds tremendous flavor!

For more tips on how to use salt, please refer to the new bestseller cookbook & cooking school tome called:  Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat.  The author, a chef at Chez Panisse with Alice Walters for many years, has written the definitive book that, after you read it, you hardly need recipes because she teaches the principles behind chef's secrets.  The "judicious" use of salt is one of those secrets.

PS  you can do all of this in a crockpot/slow cooker:  Soak beans as above, in the morning, drain beans and continue with recipe and put on low for 8 hrs or high for 5-6 hrs. (don't worry about overcooking - they just get even smoother/softer!)  When you get home, add the spinach, garlic, warmed up sausages pieces and put the lid on for a few more minutes.  Stir the spinach well into the soup to wilt it faster.

Mary Anne Robinson, MS Bio-Nutrition