Tag Archives: beans

Vegetable Soup with Basil Pistou

I read this article in the New York Times yesterday (Told to Eat Its Vegetables, America Orders Fries).  Here’s a little quote to blow your mind:

For example, only 23 percent of meals include a vegetable, Mr. Balzer said. (Again, fries don’t count, but lettuce on a hamburger does.)

Truthfully, I am not surprised by this.  With busy schedules, it does seem difficult to eat enough fruits and vegetables.  There are plenty of nights in my house when I ask my husband, “Do we really need a salad tonight?”  I am often hoping for a response that goes something like this:  “No.”  It’s just that washing the lettuce and spinning it dry and making dressing and then washing the salad spinner and washing the salad bowl sometimes seems like an insurmountable task.  It’s ridiculous, I know, but I am pretty sure ours isn’t the only household where this happens.  (And yes, I know I should wash all of my salad greens the minute I bring them home and store them in a bag with a paper towel and then magically use as needed while wearing a Mary Poppins costume.  But I don’t generally do that, OK?)

What did surprise me about this quote is how the study authors defined a “vegetable.”  A single piece of lettuce on a hamburger apparently qualifies as eating a vegetable.  One piece.  A piece that is probably a wilted up scrap of iceberg with more water than nutrients.  If only 23% of meals contain a vegetable serving with those pathetic standards, we are in trouble.

And I’m sorry, but I don’t think putting baby carrots in a vending machine with super cool graphics is the answer.  First of all, the junk food they are competing against is so loaded with fat, sugar, sodium, and chemical flavor enhancers that the carrots are just not going to win.  They’re just not.  Beyond, a super sweet vegetable like a carrot is not the flavor profile we need to develop in kids (and obviously adults too).  We need to get children eating the non-sweet, non-starchy vegetables — things like dark leafy greens, broccoli, cabbage, beans, and zucchini.  When we start our babies out with sweet and starchy things like sweet potatoes and peas, do we really expect them to develop a taste for broccoli as two year olds?

In my entirely unscientific opinion, I think we need to begin training our children’s palates as soon as they begin solid food.  That means pureeing some zucchini or broccoli and as the infants get older, maybe even adding in some spices or a bit of garlic.  If we constantly train them to expect sweetness (in their vegetables, in their snacks, in their yogurt, etc.), I am just not sure how they will ever develop an appreciation for the other wonderful flavors that exist.

Beyond, here are a few ideas for the older ones … My kids have learned to love sauteed garlicky greens (spinach, chard, kale, etc.) and they especially enjoy the fact that they can eat a tablespoon or two and that equals about 2 cups of fresh greens.  Another idea is roasting vegetables.  This works well with asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, or green beans.  Simply roast at about 425 degrees Fahrenheit after tossing with olive oil and salt and pepper.  The veggies get crispy on the edges and are delicious.  A soup like this is also a wonderful way to integrate a lot of vegetables with different flavors or textures.  You could puree it for the most finicky, but I do think that if we always hide vegetables or puree them away, it is harder for kids to learn to like anything in its normal form.

So, make some vegetable soup and be truly Un-American.  You are not limited by the vegetables that I have used here.  This is what I needed to use up and you can certainly add or substitute based on what is languishing in the back of your crisper.  And by the standard of one-piece-of-lettuce-equals-a-serving, you should be good on nutrients for about a month and a half.

Vegetable Soup with Basil Pistou

Serves 6-8 with leftovers

2 onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2-4 sweet peppers, chopped
8 cups of broth (I used homemade beef broth)*
24 oz. pureed tomatoes (I used the Bionature Brand in glass)**
1/2 cup of red wine
2 cups of green or yellow beans, stemmed and in bite sized pieces
1 1/2 cups of edamame (cooked and shelled soybeans) or peas, limas, etc.
1 cup of pasta or rice (your choice, I used penne)
2 T fresh rosemary, chopped
Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper
Red pepper flakes
1/2 cup of heavy cream
Olive Oil

Pistou:
Handful of fresh basil, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1 large clove of garlic, finely chopped
1/4 cup of olive oil
3/4 cup of parmesan cheese (freshly grated)
1/2 t salt
Freshly Ground Pepper

1.  In a large stock pot, heat 1 T olive oil.  Sauté garlic, onions, and peppers until just softened.  Deglaze pan with 1/2 cup of red wine and cook until reduced slightly.

2.  Add broth and pureed tomatoes.  Season with 2 t. of salt, freshly ground pepper, and a few red pepper flakes (more or less depending on spice preferences).  Simmer for about 15 minutes uncovered on medium heat.

3.  Meanwhile, make the pistou.  You can chop it finely, use a food processor/chopper, or a mortar and pestle.  Simply chop up the basil and garlic, add the olive oil, cheese, salt and pepper, and stir to combine.  Set aside.

3.  Add green/yellow beans and pasta to soup.  Simmer for an additional 10 minutes until pasta and beans are done.  Add edamame, chopped rosemary, and cream.   Cook for about 5 minutes longer.   Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. (You can certainly let this simmer and reduce longer if you like, but we like ours with vegetables that aren’t cooked to death.)

4.  Ladle soup into bowls and serve with a spoonful of the Basil Pistou on top.

*Use a simple homemade broth rather than buying it.  It’s much better for you and much cheaper. Just cover some chopped onion, garlic, a few herbs, celery if you have it, salt and pepper, etc. with water and simmer for as long as you have.  Strain out the solids and use the broth in just about anything.

**Research is showing that BPA is easily transferred to anything acidic in a can.  If you don’t have your own tomatoes to use, buy tomatoes only in glass containers if possible.

Rustic Ham, Bean, and Spring Green Soup

Our spring this year has been very dreary.  And cold.  And cloudy.  Actually that is pretty typical, I think.  We get one sunny day and I am nearly manic — excited to exercise and clean and parent with limitless energy.  But then we have to endure at least three cloudy and cold days because of it.  So I get a little taste of nice weather and then it is snatched away, which sometimes feels worse than if it were never here at all.  These are soup days.  

I was inspired today by leftovers from Easter — a ham bone with some meat remaining, the greens from my Kohlrabi and Radish Slaw, and a veggie drawer that was overflowing with aromatics.  I have to tread very carefully with this sort of soup, because my daughter insists that she hates beans (all forms of white, black, and red beans).  If I tell her we are making it with lima beans (dried ones which taste almost identically to any white bean), she’s cool.  So that’s where I started.  

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This is a fully made-from-scratch soup and takes about two hours start to finish.  However, I should add that most of this time is unattended.  Trust me, I was outside chasing the boy out of the mud, having impromptu playdates, and attempting to get the girl to practice the piano.  (I should also mention that you could certainly make the broth and cook the beans ahead of time which would leave you with less than an hour to just make the soup.)

The best part of this soup is that it reveals a kitchen secret:  you don’t need to soak dried beans.  I have spent the last 15 years of my life thinking I could never use dried beans because I hadn’t soaked them.  It’s not true!  You can simply simmer them for about an hour and you are good to go.

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And as usual, take liberties based on what you have available.  Use more beans if you like to make it heartier (you can even pull some out and mash them at the end to thicken the soup) or add a bit of heavy cream to make it richer.  Most importantly, enjoy with a nice glass of vino and hold out hope that the strange, bright orb in the sky might reappear tomorrow.   

Rustic Ham, Bean, and Spring Green Soup

Serves 6 with leftovers

Step 1:  Make the broth and cook the beans

(Takes about 1 hr, mostly unattended.  Prep your veggies for step two at some point during this cooking process.)

Broth:
1 Ham Bone or Ham Hock (preferably naturally smoked/no nitrates from a local source)
1 onion, cut into chunks
4 cloves of garlic, smashed
2 stalks of celery, cut into chunks
2 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
2 turnips, peeled and cut into chunks
1 t sea salt
Peppercorns

Combine all of the above in a large stock pot and cover with cold water.  Bring to a simmer, reduce heat, and let cook for about one hour.   When finished, strain stock into a colander set over a large bowl to catch the stock while separating out the veggies/bones.  If there is meat remaining on the bone, you can pick it off and set it aside.  (Discard cooked veggies.)

Beans:
1 cup of dried white beans (we used Limas, could use any kind and up to 2 cups if you want more beans)
4-5 cups of cold water (more if using more beans)
1 clove garlic, smashed
Freshly Ground Pepper
1 T rosemary
1 bay leaf

While broth is coming to a boil, put beans and other ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to boil.  Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour until tender.  Remove from heat and allow to remain in cooking liquid until ready to make soup (if cooking up way ahead of time, remove from cooking liquid.)  When ready to make soup, strain beans.  

Step 2:  Make the Soup

(Takes about 45 minutes, mostly unattended)

1 large onion, diced
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
3 stalks celery, diced
2-3 carrots, peeled and diced 
1/2 cup of Sherry
White beans (about 2 cups or more, cooked from above)
Ham Broth (6-8 cups, cooked from above) 
2 cups of shredded/chopped ham
3-4 cups of chopped cooking greens (we used Kohlrabi and Radish greens, could use spinach or just about anything else)
Sea Salt, Freshly Ground Pepper, Cayenne Pepper (if you like)
Fresh Rosemary

Croutons for garnish (bread cubes toasted in a saute pan with butter, salt, and herbs)

1.  Saute onions and garlic in a large stock pot or dutch oven in a bit of olive oil or butter over medium high heat.  Season with salt and pepper and cook for 3-5 minutes until they begin to soften and brown a bit.  Deglaze the pan with 1/2 cup of Sherry and stir to scrape up any browned bits and allow it to reduce for 1-2 minutes.

2.  Add 6-8 cups of ham broth, cooked white beans, carrots, and celery.  Reduce heat to low and cook for 20 minutes or so until vegetables are softened. Season with salt, pepper, and a pinch of cayenne if you like (if your soup is not tasting right, it usually just needs salt — soups are salt hounds.)

3.  Add in 2 cups of shredded ham and simmer 5-10 minutes more.  

4.  When ready to serve, stir in 3-4 cups of chopped cooking greens and cook until they are wilted.  Add some freshly chopped rosemary.  Taste and season more if necessary.  Simmer for 5-10 minutes until soup is slightly thickened and reduced, beans are tender (but not mushy), and greens are cooked.  (If you like, you can pull some of the beans out and mash or puree them and add them back into to make a heartier soup.  Or add some cream for richness.)

5.  To serve, ladle in large soup bowls and top with some buttered croutons.  (Or nice crusty bread…)

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