I enjoy all types of cooking; however my two favorite styles are baking and making soups. Maybe it's because my mom was such an amazing baker and maker of soups? I wonder if there is a specific gene that makes one good at cooking??
Last week, I helped my husband clean out our garage. My motivational factor was that I knew I had some old cookbooks and recipes cards stored out there. Imagine my surprise when I discovered two 3-inch notebooks filled with recipes I created (or helped create) at the health food store I worked for back in the early 90s.
That was by far my favorite food service job. My boss was Mother Earth. A total hippie with a love for health food. She had the ability to take any high-fat, calorie-rich recipe and turn it into something good for you. She could make a meatloaf out of tofu and no one could tell the difference. She made an amazing flour-less chocolate torte out of carob. Her healthy revisions always tasted as good as, if not better than, the original dish.
Growing up, my mom made the best Ham and Bean Soup and served it with cornbread. She slathered the top of the cornbread with a half stick of butter, then dipped pieces of it in the soup. Talk about heaven! She used the ham bone to season the soup and included generous chunks of ham. I vividly remember her saying, "It's not ham and bean soup without plenty of HAM!"
One day, Leslie (my boss) and I were talking about mom's bean soup. At the time I was practicing Vegetarianism, but had been craving ham and bean soup. It was a slow day, so we decided to do a little experimenting and develop a healthier version.
The following is the concoction we came up with. Cornbread is the perfect accompaniment with this soup; however, I highly recommend eliminating that half stick of butter. A teaspoon will do just fine or if you're adventurous try using organic coconut oil. It adds a wonderful sweet, coconut-y flavor. A crispy, French baguette or whole wheat dinner roll is another option.
WHITE BEAN SOUP WITH ROSEMARY AND PARMESAN
Prep Time: 15-20 minutes
Cook Time: 1-1/2 to 2 hours
1-1/2 cups dried small White (Navy) Beans
3 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 medium Onion (yellow or white), finely chopped
1 medium Carrot, peeled and finely chopped
1 stalk Celery, finely chopped
2 cloves Garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fresh Rosemary, minced
7 cups Chicken or Vegetable stock (substitute with water, if desired)
Salt and Pepper to taste
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
1 Tablespoon fresh Parsley, chopped
- Pick over and discard any damaged beans or stones. Place beans in colander and throughly rinse.
- Place beans in a large bowl, add enough water to cover and soak for about 3 hours.
- Drain beans and set aside. In a large soup pot over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add onion, carrot and celery and saute until the vegetables are soft; about 10 minutes. Stir frequently.
- Add garlic and rosemary and continue to saute for an additional 3 minutes.
- Add drained beans and the chicken or vegetable stock, or water. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low. Simmer gently, uncovered, for 1 to 1-1/2 hours. When beans are fork-tender, soup is done.
- Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
- Place one-third of the bean mixture in a blender or food processor fitted with the metal blade.
- Puree until smooth. Pour the pureed soup back into soup pot and reheat gently.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Transfer soup to individual bowls. Garnish with Parmesan cheese and parsley. Serve immediately.
NOTE: You can use canned white beans, if desired. Doing so will reduce the cooking time to around 20-30 minutes. Feel free to substitute different types of beans such as cannellini (white kidney beans), Great Northern or Lima beans.