Today it's raining. At least it's raining where I live. It's snowing where my best friend lives. I'm willing to bet that the weather has probably gone south across much of the U.S. right now. (Of course, if you live in the South, I'm not sure where the weather goes.) Time to haul out my slow cooker and make soup again.
When I first started experimenting with the slow cooker, I was staying on a farm in Davis, California, and there was nothing in the rental's kitchen but a vintage 1970's slow cooker and an old frying pan. In a true spirit of adventure, I took myself over to the local co-op and bought as many different kinds of beans as they had.
Then I went back to the little rental and systematically worked my way through dried limas, pintos, black, chickpeas, red kidneys, flageolet, navy, adzuki and other-that-I-can't remember-now beans over the course of the next month or so. Beans, water, good salt, and a few herbs from the small herb garden outside my door. May sound really boring to you, but it was actually fun and I learned about as much as I ever wanted to know about beans.
Not all beans taste the same. Not all beans have the same texture. Obviously, beans are often varying shades of black, white, mottled, red, pink, and even upon occasion, a pale green color.
And if you really want to "grasp" beans, you could, like I did, cook your way through the selection at your local health food store.
To this day, I still love a simple bean soup. And with this weather, I'm staying inside and making a classic Tuscan white bean soup with olive oil and rosemary. And tomorrow, I think I'll whip up some Hummus Soup with Kalamata olives and mint in honor of my poor Greek friends who are currently being kicked to the curb by select representatives of the entire EU. Both recipes come from my latest book, 50 Simple Soups for the Slow Cooker. I hope you enjoy them. I know I will.
Tuscan White Bean Soup with Olive Oil and Rosemary
2 cups dried white beans (great northern, cannellini, "navy," lima)
6 cups water
1 medium onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic
1 bay leaf
salt (I always start with a minimum of 1 tablespoon and go from there)
¼ cup olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Rinse the beans thoroughly and place them in a 6 or 7 quart slow cooker along with the water, onion, garlic and bay leaf. Cover and cook on LOW for about 8 hours, or until the beans are nice and tender.
If cooking on the stovetop, plan ahead. You'll need to soak the beans overnight, covered by three inches of water. In the morning, drain and rinse. Add beans to the water, onion, garlic and bay leaf, bring to just a boil, then lower heat to simmer, cover, and cook for about an hour to an hour and a half.
Remove the bay leaf. Using a handheld immersion blender (much safer than trying to pour all of the hot ingredients into a blender!), puree the remaining ingredients to the desired texture. Add salt to taste.
Ladle into soup bowls, then drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle on some fresh rosemary and Parmesan.
Hummus Soup with Kalamata Olives and Mint
1 cup dried chickpeas
6 cups water
1 teaspoon cumin seed
1 teaspoon coriander seed
2 tablespoons tahini
2-3 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 cloves garlic or more
½ cup Greek-style yogurt
¼ cup chopped kalamata olives
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley or mint
Rinse the chickpeas thoroughly and place them in a 6 or 7 quart slow cooker along with the water. Cover and cook on LOW for 6-8 hours or until the chickpeas are tender.
If using the stovetop, soak the beans overnight and drain. Bring beans and water to a boil, and then simmer, covered, until tender, about 1 hour.
Coarsely grind the cumin and coriander seeds (in a coffee mill or mortar and pestle) and add them and the tahini and lemon juice to the chickpeas. Using a garlic press, press the garlic into the soup.
Using a handheld immersion blender, puree the chickpeas to the desired consistency.
Ladle the soup into bowls and top each serving with a dollop of yogurt, some olives and parsley.